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

Guided hike of McMillan Mesa Natural Area 9/28/23 4-6pm. Join Willow Bend Environmental Education Center for a free community/adult-oriented hike. For more information and to pre-register, visit

Full Moon Hike Friday 9/29/23 6pm. Join us for a nighttime hike of Picture Canyon for the "Harvest Moon" full moon rise. Wear sturdy shoes and dress for the weather, bring red flashlights and hiking poles if you have them, but we'll have extras! We'll meet in the parking are at Picture Canyon, 3920 N El Paso Flagstaff Rd.

Plein Air in Open Spaces!  Saturday 9/30/2023 from 10am-noon, but NOT at Picture Canyon; because the weather promises to be very windy, we're moving this event to the TerraBirds greenhouse at Ponderosa High School, 2384 N Steve's Blvd.  As part of the Flagstaff Festival of Science, we're hosting outdoor drawing and painting events to capture the beautiful nature in Flagstaff. An artist will be on hand to give basic instruction; all ages and abilities are welcome, and we will provide free art supplies and easels. 

First Friday Art Walk-Plein Air in Open Spaces Friday 10/6/2023 5-9pm is canceled. First Friday Art Walk is still happening, but we will not be displaying plein air artwork.

Open Space Working Group meeting Wednesday 10/11/2023 10am at McMillan Mesa Natural Area. We'll meet at Buffalo Park by the buffalo, and hike some of McMillan Mesa Loop Trail. Geologist Wayne Ranney will join us to talk about how McMillan Mesa was formed and the cool geology there.  Join us to learn more about Flagstaff's Open Spaces and our current projects.

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.