TOPS Letter to the Editor of the Gazette

Submitted on October 24, 2021


I’m writing to share our perspective and why we support ballot initiative 2C to extend for 20 years and increase the TOPS sales tax from 1 penny to 2 pennies on a $10 purchase.

Our organization, the Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance (PPORA), works to strengthen outdoor recreation for our local communities and that is directly dependent on our public lands including trails, open space, and parks. Outdoor use in our community and across the Pikes Peak region has been ever increasing as more people are realizing the benefits, but we are not keeping up in terms of funding and infrastructure. The increase and extension of TOPS is needed and is a wise investment in our future. Here are some points to consider:

  • The value of parks, trails, and open spaces to individuals and this community cannot be overstated and the pandemic has shown a greater light on how time outside improves our health and sense of overall wellbeing. Even before the pandemic, 90% of Colorado Springs residents reported they recreate outdoors at least once a week on average, and we know our outdoor assets contribute to home values, workforce attraction, business investment, tourism, and more.
  • TOPS has been an invaluable tool and has a great track record. In a snapshot: Nearly 50 miles of trail, over 7,000 acres of open space, and 40 park projects. Investing in a well-run, fiscally responsible and effective program just makes sense. Here are just a few properties TOPS has completely or partially funded that you may know and enjoy today:
    • Red Rock Canyon Open Space
    • Stratton Open Space
    • Corral Bluffs Open Space
    • Ute Valley Park
    • Bear Creek Trail
    • El Pomar Youth Sports Complex
    • Cheyenne Mountain State Park
    • Chamberlain Trail
    • Midland Trail
    • Mt. Manitou Incline
  • Our current financial commitment through TOPS of .10% is woefully below what is needed and frankly, embarrassing, when compared to other front range communities who back up their stated value of parks, open spaces, and trails with the needed funds to acquire, plan, develop, and maintain properties. The proposed increase to .20% (from 1 penny to 2 pennies on $10 in sales) doesn’t even bring us up to most of them but will make a significant impact:
    • City of Boulder: .62%
    • Jefferson County: .50%
    • City of Denver: .25%
    • City of Fort Collins: .25%
      (Data from Colorado Open Space Alliance,
  • The proposed adjustment to the structure of TOPS provides needed flexibility. TOPS has not been stagnant over the years – adjustments have been made along the way, and that is what is being proposed today. Acquisition remains a key focus and the funding for this important piece is not reduced, as some have suggested. (See Councilman Skorman’s explanation from Oct. 19, 2021.) But the backlog of deferred maintenance, increase in users and user impacts due to growth in our city and compounded by the pandemic, not to mention rising maintenance costs, requires us to adjust the TOPS structure to meet our new reality. During the last Parks Master Plan process, the community made it very clear: it’s not enough to purchase land or build trails and parks. We also need to take care of them and this revised structure builds that in. There are also “haves and have nots” in the current structure: an unbalanced system of funding certain properties over and above others and the revised structure addresses this so that funds are distributed more equitably across the park system.

PPORA strongly supports ballot issue 2C and asks that you do the same. As Mayor Suthers often says, help us embrace the challenge to continue to “build a city that matches our scenery.”

Becky Leinweber, Executive Director
Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance