Open Space & Natural Areas

In memoriam - Jack Welch

Open Space joins Open Space Commission Chair Mike Wilson in acknowledging the passing of JACK WELCH on Friday, July 21. "He was a great friend to all of Flagstaff and a personal friend of mine as well. For over 25 years, Jack was an advocate for walking, biking, trails, open space and he volunteered for many Flagstaff activities and events. He loved local history and archeology and was always eager to share his knowledge. In an Oct 3, 2006 interview for the Arizona Daily Sun he was quoted as saying, 'We are getting new people moving in, people who are outdoor oriented, I introduce the Flagstaff Urban Trail, and help introduce them to what's here.' That is what he did for me after I moved here 10 years ago and joined his walking group. I am forever grateful to know HIS Flagstaff." Jack was also a driving force behind protecting Picture Canyon Natural & Cultural Preserve, and we will forever be grateful to him. "Get involved and do something." 


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, and McMillan Mesa Natural Area

To many Flagstaff area residents, open space is the defining feature of Flagstaff's character and attraction, and all of these properties were acquired after citizen initiatives (more on that below)! 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.

We use Open Space Stewards to accomplish much of our work. If you love our beautiful open spaces and want to get involved, visit or click on "Open Space Stewards" on the left side of this page for more information.

Flagstaff's Open Spaces program also provides, and partners with others to provide, outdoor and nature education to kids. For more information, visit or click on "Outdoor Education Project" on the left side of this page.

Hiker at Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve. Photo Credit: Tamara Hastie Photography

Helpful Resources

Check out our most recent newsletters here!

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.

Guide to Outdoor Safety and Health

Upcoming Events

Observatory Mesa Invasive Plant project is out for bid until September 11, 2023 12pm. We received a grant from AZ Department of Forestry & Fire Management to manage invasive weeds on Observatory Mesa Natural Area. Please visit the bid details for more information.

Invasive Weed Pull at Picture Canyon Wednesday 9/13/23 5-7:30pm. We will meet at Picture Canyon Trail Head, 3920 N El Paso Flagstaff Rd. Wear long sleeves and pants, sturdy shoes, a sunhat and sunscreen. Bring drinking water, work gloves, and a weed shovel if you have them, but we'll have extras!

Outdoor Educators Meeting Monday 9/11/2023 10am-noon at the Flagstaff Aquaplex Community Room. If you provide outdoor/environmental education to youth and would like to join our coalition, please attend!

Open Space Working Group meeting Wednesday 9/13/2023 10am at Frances Short Pond. Join us to learn more about Flagstaff's Open Spaces and our current projects.

Plein Air in Open Spaces! Friday 9/22/2023 3-5pm at Buffalo Park Ramada, Saturday 9/23/2023 10am-2pm at Wheeler Park, and Saturday 9/30/2023 from 10am-noon at Picture Canyon.  As part of the Flagstaff Festival of Science, we will host outdoor drawing and painting events on Flagstaff's open spaces! An artist will be on hand to give basic instruction; all ages and abilities are welcome, and we will provide art supplies and easels. All artists will be welcome to submit their completed artwork for display at First Friday Art Walk 10/6/23 at Flagstaff Climbing Gym, where viewers will vote for their favorite artwork in different age categories for prizes!

Guided hikes of McMillan Mesa Natural Area 9/26 and 9/28/23. Join Willow Bend Environmental Education Center for a free family-friendly guided hike of McMillan Mesa Tuesday 9/26 4-5:30pm, or for a free community/adult-oriented hike Thursday 9/28 4-6pm. For more information and to pre-register, visit

First Friday Art Walk Friday 10/6/2023 5-9pm at Flagstaff Climbing Gym, 205 S San Francisco St in Flagstaff. Come view and vote for your favorite artwork created during the "Plein Air in Open Spaces" events!

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

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. 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; the official rezone to Public Open Space became effective on March 1, 2022. 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.

Lost and Found

If you've lost something at an Open Space property, we may have found it! Email Sylvia Struss or call 928-213-2328.

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 Parks, Recreation, Open Spaces & Events, 1702 N Fourth St, Flagstaff AZ 86004. Thank you!

Email Robert Wallace, the City's Open Space Supervisor, or call 928-213-2327, if you are interested in organizing a volunteer event for your group, or for any questions about the Open Spaces program.