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A Message From the Director
Reservoir Ridge Natural Area
Reservoir Ridge Natural Area

One year ago, I spent three weeks in Costa Rica studying Spanish, surfing, and getting to know my host family. It was one of the best three weeks of my life, and I was enthralled by my new friends, the stunning tropical beauty, and – of course - the great surf.

Costa Rica is unique among Latin American countries in that it has no military and has made a conscious decision to conserve as much of its wild resources as possible both for their intrinsic value and their economic value as tourist amenities. Although the country struggles with debt, underemployment, illegal timber harvests, and other issues endemic to the developing world, in many ways it is much cleaner, greener, and better off financially than its neighbors.

Closer to home, Colorado is renowned for its own beauty, a high quality of life, and a rich tradition of conserving natural resources. All of us who work for the Fort Collins Natural Areas Program feel privileged to be a part of that conservation tradition, and we are grateful to the citizens of Fort Collins who have supported and made possible the Natural Areas Program.

Both in Costa Rica and right here in Fort Collins, citizens and voters have decided that robust land conservation programs are integral to maintaining and enhancing quality of life. We often hear of families and businesses that moved to Fort Collins because our community is enriched by a framework of valuable public amenities, including an impressive system of natural areas.

John Stokes
John Stokes
Director of the Natural Resources Department

As the new Director of the program, I feel two emotions as I peruse this annual report. I am proud becausewe have a great staff, a great community that supports our program, and together we are attaining conservation success. On the other hand, I am humbled, because you have entrusted us with the profound responsibility of operating a substantial community effort that is financed with your money.

Fortunately, I am confident that the Natural Areas program is up to the responsibility. In 2003, for example, we allocated $7.2 million to land conservation and helped conserve approximately 4,700 acres. In addition to the land conservation, there is more good news. Over a three-year period, the program is contributing $1.5 million to the Parks Department to help construct and reconstruct a variety of trails in and around town. For skaters and bicyclists, this means that a lot of the old bumpy asphalt will be transformed into smooth sailing. In another piece of encouraging news, in late 2004, we anticipate the opening of Fossil Creek Regional Open Space. This joint project with Larimer County promises to be an exciting wildlife observation facility with easy access to Fort Collins residents and families.

There is so much more that I could share with you in this column. But words cannot substitute for the joy of being outside and experiencing the land. Thus, I hope you'll take some time this afternoon or this weekend to enjoy your natural areas. Unlike Costa Rica there won't be any toucans, but there will be an abundance of beautiful prairies, rivers, and foothills to share with your families, friends, and neighbors. I hope that you enjoy your visit, and please let us know how we can better serve you.

John Stokes
Director of the Natural Resources Department
970-221-6600