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Westminster Hills Open Space Area Management Plan

Update: Surveys are now available for members of the public to provide their input about management plans for the Westminster Hills Open Space Area Management Project. 



Welcome to the Westminster Hills Open Space Area Management Plan website! This website has been created to keep the public up to date on the status of the Area Management Plan for Westminster Hills Open Space that is currently underway.

Westminster Hills Open Space Area Management Plan Study Area


The Area Management Plan is to ensure that Westminster Hills Open Space is being managed to meet the purposes for which the land was acquired: conserve and protect the shortgrass prairie along with the animals and plants that call it home while providing appropriate recreational opportunities. More information about the purpose of open space acquisition can be found here: 
Open Space Program

Over the next year, the City of Westminster will be evaluating the current condition of the Westminster Hills Open Space. This includes the status of the ecological and recreational resources, the development of a set of desired future conditions for the site and the creation of management actions to achieve that vision. There will be several opportunities for public input throughout the process, and this site will be updated regularly to provide information.





The Westminster Hills Open Space was acquired through twelve different open space purchases beginning in 1995 with the purchase of 125 acres from the Brauch Family. More land was purchased over several years including the addition of Woman Creek Reservoir Property in 2017, which is 345 acres. The Westminster Hills Open Space is now roughly 1,000 acres. This open space land was acquired using over $4.5 million from the Westminster Parks Open Space and Trails’ (POST) funds and more than $4.7 million from Natural Resources Damages and Department of Energy Funds and grants from Jefferson County and Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO). 

Off-Leash Dog Opportunity
In 2000, the City established a one-year pilot program for a dog off-leash area on 27 acres of the Westminster Hills Open Space land. Westminster City Council modified city code to allow the development of an off-leash dog area with the understanding provided by the City Manager that such activities cannot have a detrimental effect on the natural qualities for which the open space was originally acquired.  At the end of the year, the pilot project was deemed successful based on the high level of visitation and allowed to continue.

In 2008, the off-leash dog area was extended to the remainder of the approximately 1,000 acre Open Space. One year later, after numerous negative encounters between dogs and coyotes as well as an outbreak of the Bubonic Plaque among prairie dogs, the off-leash dog area was reduced to the 400 acres it currently is today.

Since the inception of the dog off-leash opportunity area, the popularity of the Westminster Hills Open Space has grown dramatically. In the past decade, the available parking at Westminster Hills has been expanded six times. The most recent estimates indicate more than 1,000,000 visits to the Open Space each year.


Ecological Value

The City of Westminster has prioritized the protection of natural areas by dedicating 15% of its land to open space property. Westminster Hills Open Space makes up roughly 1/3 of the City’s open space land. In 2017, the City of Westminster requested a natural resource assessment to be done on the Westminster Hills Open Space from ERO Resource Corporation. That report identifies numerous endangered and threatened species as well as critical habitat such as wetlands and the shortgrass prairie in the study area.

View of wetland vegetation communities along Woman Creek


View of the shortgrass prairie habitat in the Westminster Hills Open Space


Although Westminster Hills Open Space resides in the intense rain shadow created by the Rocky Mountains, there are still bodies of water here that are a concern for conservation. Woman Creek, for example, supports the wetland habitat, which is crucial to the survival of various flora and fauna in the area. The shortgrass prairie habitat is an endangered habitat in Colorado. It once covered most of what is known as metro Denver, but now only remnants remain. It is a biome of ecological diversity that supports more than 100 threatened, endangered or declining plant and animal species. The City of Westminster continues conservation efforts to support these habitats.



Westminster Hills Open Space is filled with a diversity of wildlife. The natural resource assessment performed by ERO Resource Corporation identified several important prairie species that currently reside at Westminster Hills Open Space or may in the future because of suitable habitat conditions. Those animals are:

  • Black-tailed Prairie Dog – Keystone Species
  • Bald Eagle – Keyston Species
  • Western Burrowing Owl – Threatened Species
  • Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse – Threatened Species
  • Northern Leopard Frog – Species of Concern


Black-tailed Prairie Dogs


Western Burrowing Owl, Photo Credit: Wendy Keefover. All rights reserved.


Black-tailed prairie dogs play a very important part in this environment. They are classified as a keystone species. Keystone species are species that play a critical role in maintaining the structure of an ecological community. The black-tailed prairie dogs’ presence benefits local wildlife and vegetation. Their colonies provide shelter and breeding grounds to the western burrowing owls, a threatened migratory species in Colorado. They also act as a great source for Standley Lake’s resident bald eagle pair, who use the prairie dog colonies for food and to teach juvenile offspring how to hunt. 

The Open Space also provides suitable habitat for potential wildlife species with dwindling populations. The Preble's meadow jumping mouse has not been seen at Westminster Hills Open Space, but the open space provides sufficient habitat along Woman Creek and portions of Church Ditch. This species has been a threatened species since 1998, so it is vital to conserve their preferred habitat. Northern leopard frogs are a species of concern in the state of Colorado. Even though this species has not been seen on the open space land, it is dependent on wetland habitat like areas provided within the Westminster Hills Open Space to lay their eggs and prevent the amphibian from drying out. The City of Westminster will continue to conserve the natural characteristics of the Westminster Hills Open Space to provide refuge for these crucial wildlife species.


Stay Up to Date

If you would like to stay informed on the Westminster Open Space Area Management Plan, please fill out the form below.

Westminster Hills Open Space Form