Open Space & Natural Areas

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, 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 tourism, 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 https://flgcls.com/about 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 https://flagstaff.az.gov/4167/Outdoor-Education-Project or click on "Outdoor Education Project" on the left side of this page.

The Schultz Creek Trailhead is no longer managed by the Open Space Section, after three storm water retention basins needed to be constructed there to prevent flooding after the Pipeline Fire. For more information, see the City's Pipeline Fire West Flood Area webpage and the 11/2/2022 newsletter about the completion of those basins.

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

We're hiring!

We are in search of an Open Space Coordinator/Educator, a dynamic individual to teach nature education to middle- and high-school students in the Flagstaff area!  For more information and to apply (by 3/1/2024), visit the government jobs website.

Helpful Resources

What is open space? Learn more about definitions here.

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

Check out this beautiful article about the Jan 25, 2024 Full Moon Hike in The Lumberjack online newspaper:  https://www.jackcentral.org/lifestyle/an-evening-under-the-wolf-moon/article_8bdbd7ac-bf91-11ee-a68d-bf9ed580378f.html

The next Full Moon Hike will be Saturday Feb 24, 2024 at 5:30pm, hiking McMillan Mesa Loop Trail. We will meet by the buffalo at Buffalo Park, hike counter-clockwise down toward Jay Lively Ice Rink/Turquoise Dr, then up Cedar onto Pine Cliff by BASIS School, then onto the FUTS, looping back to Buffalo Park. Dress for the weather, wear sturdy shoes, and bring hiking poles, ice/snow cleats and red flashlights if you have them, but we'll have extras!

Open Spaces Commission meeting Monday Feb 26, 2024 4-6pm at the Flagstaff Aquaplex Community Room and via Microsoft Teams. This will be a joint meeting with the Parks & Recreation Commission.

Nature Educators Coalition of Northern AZ meeting Monday March 4, 2024 10am-12pm at the Aquaplex Community Room or via MS Teams. All members will share their organization's work and upcoming programs, so that we can learn, network, and collaborate on our nature education efforts.

Open Space Working Group meeting Wednesday Mar 13, 2024 10am. We will meet at AZ Watchable Wildlife Site at the Museum of Northern Arizona and follow the nature trail to check out the basalt canyon and the Rio de Flag behind the museum. Come get updates on Open Space projects and check out this AWWE site! If you need transportation to attend this, please contact sylvia.struss@flagstaffaz.gov. For more information on this AWWE site, visit https://www.azwatchwildlife.com/audio-guides. The back-up plan in case of bad weather is the party room at the Aquaplex.

Open Space Volunteer Appreciation Brunch Potluck Wednesday April 10, 2024 10am at the Flagstaff Aquaplex Community Room. Come celebrate our volunteer projects over the past year and be recognized for your hard work!  

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, 211 W Aspen Ave, Flagstaff AZ 86001. 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.