Voters approve to retain existing sales tax for open lands, rivers and trails in Grand County
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect latest election results.
Grand County resoundingly voted yes on Ballot Issue 1A, the Open Lands, Rivers and Trails measure, according to preliminary results from Grand County Clerk and Recorder’s Office. The countywide ballot measure asked voters if Grand County should extend its existing 0.3% sales tax levy, beginning January 1, 2024, to continue supporting the Open, Lands, Rivers and Trails Fund.
As of 11 p.m. on Election Day, 72.56% of votes tallied approved retaining the sales tax, according to unofficial results from the Grand County Clerk and Recorder’s Office.
The proceeds of the sales tax will be used for protecting and conserving agricultural lands, scenic open spaces, wildlife habitat, wetlands and more. The fund helps maintain local hiking and biking trails, plus conserves water in the Colorado and Fraser rivers, lakes and streams.
The sales tax levy was first created in 2016 to fund the Grand County Open Lands, Rivers and Trails program. Thanks to voters approving the sales tax extension, several new environmental efforts will receive funding starting in 2024. First, the funding will benefit wildfire mitigation and prevention, which is especially important in the wake of disasters such as the East Troublesome Fire.
In addition, the funding will go towards creation of new hiking, biking, and multi-use trails, including motorized trails. Adding motorized trails to the funding is beneficial for towns whose economy relies on these trails, explained Meara McQuain, president and director of Headwaters Trails Alliance. For example, Grand Lake and Kremmling are home to numerous snowmobile trails.
Lastly, more water quality and river restoration projects will receive funding.
Community leaders celebrate the passing of Ballot Issue 1A
Jessica Rahn, executive director of the Grand County Wildfire Council
“Thank you to everyone in our community who supported extending this important piece of funding without raising taxes for open lands, rivers, trails, and now, wildfire mitigation. We’re excited that the community supported this and there will be local funding for wildland fire mitigation. There has been a substantial amount of planning, before and since our devastating fires, and these funds will go a long way to move projects from planning to useful fuels projects. Grand County Wildfire Council hopes to use a portion of these funds to leverage other available funding from our federal, state and regional partners for our programs, focusing on wildfire mitigation and education. Please visit our website at bewildfireready.org to learn more about our programs and how to reduce your wildfire risk.”
Brad White, Fire Chief of Grand Fire Protection District No. 1:
“I think Grand County voters recognize that their dollars are best invested locally, and I think the OLRT fund has a history of demonstrating that. The fund has invested in many of the values important to Grand County citizens and has continued to keep Grand County Grand. We’re really excited that wildfire mitigation efforts will now be included in the funding, and I think it shows that we’re here to invest in our future and ready to turn much of our recent community planning into community protection.”
Meara McQuain, president/director of Headwaters Trails Alliance
“Speaking from Headwaters Trails Alliance, (OLRT funding) has certainly allowed us to make some really significant changes to our trails that are more in line with sustainability, so the trails can sustain the ever-growing population. Without having these funds over the last several years, we would really be behind in getting our trails able to cope with the current visitation we’re seeing … I would like to thank Grand County residents for their continued support of protecting the waters, landscapes and recreation amenities for our community residents and visitors.”
Jeremy Krones, executive director of Colorado Headwaters Land Trust
The land trust is thrilled to see such a great show of support from the community. This passing proved the community’s commitment to continue to support conservation and allows us to pursue our mission even further. OLRT will continue to be something unique to Grand County, as we all recognize the immense value of outdoor recreation and natural resource management. Thank you to everyone who supports this invaluable and worthwhile measure. Grand County residents and visitors alike will benefit from it for many, many years to come.”
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