Open Space Program

Overview

View of the San Francisco Peaks from Observatory Mesa Natural Area Photo Copyright: Tom Bean PhotogrThe City of Flagstaff Open Space Program is responsible for managing over 3,000 acres of legally-designated open space properties, including Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve, Observatory Mesa Natural Area, McMillan Mesa, and the Schultz Creek Trailhead. We use Open Space Stewards to accomplish much of our work.

To many Flagstaff area residents, open space is the defining feature of Flagstaff's character and attraction. Open space defines the region's quality of life, protects the region's ecological health, supports existing and future economic development, and preserves historic and cultural resources.

Guide to Outdoor Safety and Health

Bond Initiatives

In 2004, Flagstaff voters approved two bond initiatives to fund open space acquisition efforts. These funds were leveraged with Arizona State Parks Growing Smarter grant funds to purchase nearly 2,700 acres of protected open space at Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve and Observatory Mesa Natural Area. These areas are managed to provide recreational and educational opportunities.

On July 6, 2020, the Flagstaff City Council adopted the revised Management Plan for Legally-Designated Open Space (PDF), outlining policies and projects associated with managing the natural and cultural resources on these properties, while providing educational and recreational opportunities for Flagstaff visitors. Each year, in addition to directing efforts to meet the Program's mission, Flagstaff Open Space works to achieve the goals outlined in the Legally Designated Open Space Management Plan.

In 2016, Flagstaff voted in favor of Prop 413, which restricted the use of 300 acres of City-owned property on McMillan Mesa to public open space and passive recreation. On February 15, 2022, the Flagstaff City Council adopted a resolution amending the existing zoning of the McMillan Mesa Natural Area from "Public Facilities and Rural Residential Zoning" to Public Open Space (Zoning Map Amendment application PZ-20-00063). The second reading of the ordinance will be March 1, 2022 at 3pm. For more information about the application and the meetings, view this informational letter.

Year in Review ReportsHiker at Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve. Photo Credit: Tamara Hastie Photography

The following reports provide insight on the Program's progress and is a testament to the Flagstaff community's engagement and interest in working together to preserve and protect our natural areas.

To learn more about what the Open Space Program and our partners have been up to more recently, as well as exciting projects and community events, check out our latest e-newsletter.

Helpful Resources

We have FREE Gift Certificates! Share quality time with loved ones at a Flagstaff's Open Space!

Are you interested in using open space properties for a research project or educational program? Submit a complete Research and Education Permit (PDF) to us via email for review!

One of our efforts is to control invasive plants on Flagstaff's Open Spaces, and we actively pursue grants to support these efforts.

Upcoming Events

September 23-October 2, 2022 As part of the Flagstaff Festival of Science, Open Spaces will host Plein Air in Open Spaces--painting and drawing nature outdoors! There will be demonstrations and art supplies to try it yourself. All artists are welcome! Come try out plein air at Buffalo Park Friday September 23rd from 4-6pm, at Science in the Park Saturday September 24th at Wheeler Park, or on Saturday October 1st at Picture Canyon from 10am-noon. Artists may submit their artwork for display at First Friday Art Walk in November, and to win prizes! For more information, check out the Plein Air in Open Spaces Guidelines.

September 24, 2022 6-8pm AZ Watchable Wildlife Experience FREE Wildlife Viewing and Stargazing at Rogers Lake County Natural Area. Visit https://www.azwatchwildlife.com/events for more information.

September 28, 2022 4-6pm Nature Journal Workshop As part of the Flagstaff Festival of Science, the Open Spaces Program presents a FREE Nature Journal Workshop at Willow Bend Environmental Center, 703 E Sawmill Rd in Flagstaff. We will create nature journals out of recycled and natural materials, then get outside and use them! All ages are welcome. Please pre-register at https://forms.gle/6zGEQBmdzsKDx7W89  

November 4, 2022 5-9pm First Friday Art Walk at The 928 Law Firm, 224 E Birch Ave in downtown Flagstaff. Artwork from the Plein Air in Open Spaces will be displayed. Come listen to the live music of Black Lemon, munch, view and vote for the best artwork for People's Choice awards!

Adopt a Tree!  Volunteers planted Ponderosa Pine trees on McMillan Mesa between the FUTS (Flagstaff Urban Trail System) and the new Veterans Home, to replace some of the invasive trees that were removed. Consider adopting those trees (water and feed them)! Email sylvia.struss@flagstaffaz.gov with any questions or to adopt a tree. 

Stay up to date with events by following our Facebook page or Instagram @cityofflagstaffparks

Open Spaces now accepts donations, which support volunteer events and educational events. If you'd like to donate, please make a check payable to City of Flagstaff-Open Spaces, and mail it to Robert Wallace, City of Flagstaff Open Space Program, 3200 W Rt 66, Bldg 6, Flagstaff AZ 86001. Thank you!

Email Robert Wallace, the City's Open Space Specialist, or call 928-213-2154, if you are interested in organizing a volunteer event for your group, or for any questions about the Open Space program.