Four new natural areas to open in Fort Collins at a “nominal cost”

Erik Petrovich

A Great Blue Heron lands by a small lake in Evergreen West Pond. A trail will surround 3/4 of the lake as part of a new Fort Collins Natural Area. (Luke Walker/ Collegian)
A Great Blue Heron lands by a small lake in Evergreen West Pond. A trail will surround much of the lake as part of a new Fort Collins Natural Area. (Luke Walker/ Collegian)

The Fort Collins Department of Natural Areas announced four new natural areas would be opened to the public within the next year, bringing the total number of natural areas in the city up to 47. 

Tanglewood Natural Area and Goose Hollow Natural Area each cover less 10 acres of land or less, with Goose Hollow, the smallest of the newly designated areas, coming in at four acres and Tanglewood coming in at 10 acres. Of the two larger areas, Soaring Vista Natural Area is expected to cover the largest area of land at 113 acres, while the Flores del Sol Natural Area will cover 76 acres. 

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Soaring Vista and Flores del Sol are expected to open by the end of the year, while Fort Collins residents may have to wait until the end of 2017 to explore Tanglewood and Goose Hollow.

Geese, woods, sunflowers and hawks

Goose Hollow Natural Area is named so for a number of geese who nest on a small island in the middle of the Evergreen West Pond and on the banks of the water. The natural area will take up much of a 9-acre plot of land that was bought by the Fort Collins Housing Authority to develop affordable housing neighborhoods called the Village at Redwood.

“Hopefully people in the neighborhood will include the pond as part of their walking path to work,” said Mark Sears, manager of the Department of Natural Areas, referring to a trail that will be built around the majority of the area.

Tanglewood Natural Area as seen from Spring Creek Trail is one of four new natural areas designated within Fort Collins. (Luke Walker/ Collegain)
Tanglewood Natural Area will only be accessible from the Spring Creek Trail. (Luke Walker/ Collegian)

Tanglewood Natural Area features felled trees, crawling vines and the nest of a pair of red-tailed hawks. The land was originally acquired by the Stormwater Department to use for a detention pond, which helps to control flood water. However, the planned pond was moved north to Spring Canyon Park instead, leaving the area owned but unmanaged.

The Department of Natural Areas came to an agreement with the Stormwater Department within the last year to be responsible for management of the area under the original ownership. Tanglewood Natural Area will only be accessible from the Spring Creek Trail and will be located just west of Taft Hill Road.

Flores del Sol Natural Area will be adorned in wildflowers and sunflowers, from which the natural area draws its name, but will be mostly used for agriculture. It borders the as-of-yet incomplete Colorado Front Range Trail, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2017. The Colorado Front Range Trail, once complete, will connect Loveland and Fort Collins, according to Sears.

Soaring Vista Natural Area is a large area that will be partly farmed and partly restored to its natural state as part of a partnership with the City of Loveland. Much of the natural area is open and without large vegetation, offering views of the Front Range and prime real estate for hunting birds of prey.

Low cost to the city

In a ballpark estimate, Sears said each acre of land in a natural area costs the city about $250 to maintain, but clarified that each natural area has different demands for maintenance.

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“All four of these have a pretty nominal maintenance cost, but they will certainly add some cost,” Sears said. “It would likely cost more than $1000 to maintain some small sites, but Tanglewood may not cost $2500 because it is already pretty self-sufficient.”

Another contributing factor to the low cost of creating the four new natural areas is the incorporation of agriculture on the two larger natural areas. Sears said farmers working the land would be responsible for the majority of the maintenance of the Flores del Sol and Soaring Vista Natural Areas, reducing the total cost to the City. 

“In the future, we hope to work with people who will grow organic food for Fort Collins locals,” Sears said. “We hope we will break even, that it won’t cost us anything to manage those sites.”

Collegian Executive Editor Erik Petrovich can be reached at editor@collegian.com or on Twitter @EAPetrovich.