Perhaps nothing personifies Boulder’s open space quite like Chautauqua meadow, where the majestic Flatirons rise abruptly from the vast plains. Whether it’s green and dotted with wildflowers or sparkling white and blanketed with snow, Chautauqua meadow is always breathtakingly beautiful.
Chautauqua is a bustling trailhead with access to countless trails and climbing routes. The Ranger Cottage serves as a visitor center and offices for OSMP. The adjacent Colorado Chautauqua Association is a cultural hub complete with a restaurant, auditorium, general store, park, and historic cottages.
With so much happening in one place, and so much beauty to behold, it’s no wonder the area is immensely popular among locals and tourists alike. Unfortunately, Chautauqua meadow bears the brunt of all this activity. On any given day, the meadow trails are bursting with hikers, climbers, runners, students, researchers, artists, and sightseers.
Many of the trails have seen significant widening as a result of this foot traffic. In addition, multiple social trails have been forged – way more than what the land can sustain. These trails are redundant and unnecessary. They serve no real purpose and only contribute to the degradation of the land.
This heavy visitor use, in conjunction with flood-related erosion, has left Chautauqua meadow in pretty bad shape. If we were to continue on this path, the meadow would cease to exist in the future. Aesthetically, this would be unfortunate. Ecologically, it would be disastrous for the many species of flora and fauna that depend upon it. Thankfully, OSMP and the Boulder community have stepped in to make sure that doesn’t happen.
In August 2014, OSMP began a multi-phase, long-term project to restore and protect the meadow for the future. Department trail crews and local volunteers have been working together to permanently close redundant trails, restore sensitive habitat, and rebuild main trails using proven, sustainable techniques.
While this work is ongoing, OSMP has asked visitors to be mindful of new signage regarding closures and construction. Be aware that trucks and other equipment may be present on or near the trails. The crews are doing their best to minimize disturbances to visitors.
Once the project is complete later this year, Boulderites will have a new and improved Chautauqua meadow to enjoy! Hopefully, it’s one that will be enjoyed for many generations to come. We can do our part by heeding any closures, staying on trail, and following the other tenets of Leave No Trace. This is our land and it’s up to us to take care of it. Happy trails, Boulderites!
Photo Credit: © Alli Fronzaglia for Your Boulder – all rights reserved