Boulder has a long legacy of taking bold, innovative action to protect our natural beauty and deliberately craft a community that is unique in character.  Take a look at all of the great things that previous generations did to make Boulder the great place it is to live, work and play, and

ask yourself,

"What are we going to do

to make Boulder an even better place

for future generations?


The funding of CU was made possible by donations from forward thinking residents, totaling 45 acres and $15,000 (about $300,000 in today’s dollars), and were matched by the territorial legislature.

It was, all in all, a cooperative effort between the government and the community, which already seemed to place a high value on education.

Boulder's History

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University of Colorado





Boulder, by then accessible to visitors by railroad, was already known as a community with a prosperous economy, a comprehensive educational system, and well-maintained residential neighborhoods. It was no wonder that the railroad recommended Boulder as a site for Chautauqua in 1897. Boulder residents passed a bond issue to buy the land, and the now familiar Chautauqua Auditorium was built. 

Chautauqua History

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Securing Water

By the turn of the century, Boulder’s City Council was forward thinking enough to develop a plan to acquire ownership of a high-mountain watershed and water rights, free of pollution from the mines, and to pipe the pure water to Boulder. The city made its first land purchases along North Boulder Creek in what was to become the city-owned Silver Lake Watershed in 1904.  The watershed contains 13 reservoirs and natural lakes that are fed by snowmelt and melting of Arapahoe Glacier. In the 1950’s, severe drought, combined with exploding population growth, strained the limits of Boulder's water supply. The city made plans to develop additional water supplies resulting in the use of Barker Reservoir and Boulder Reservoir.  As a result of their planning, Boulder still enjoys sufficient water supply today.

Boulder's Water History

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Early Town Planning

The noted landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. (son of the designer of New York City’s Central Park), came to Boulder in 1908 at the invitation of the Boulder City Improvement Association, a group of private citizens. He declared that no two towns were alike and that the needs of the populace should be carefully considered.  It was essential that the community as a whole had the willingness to engage in public improvement and to plan for the future.  He noted that Boulder wasn’t the sort of western town where folks tried to make their fortunes quickly and move on. Instead, Boulder residents wanted to build a community with a lifestyle they could enjoy. 

Frederick Law Olmstead

Buy Olmstead's Book



Transportation and Industry

Boulder’s post-WW2 population soared from 13,000 in 1940 to over 20,000 by 1950.  New residents meant both new opportunities and new challenges.  Although jobs were needed, townspeople wanted to preserve the beautiful natural setting and amenities developed over the years. By 1950, Boulder leaders were actively recruiting new "clean" industry and improved transportation, securing a new highway, the Boulder-Denver Turnpike, and the National Bureau of Standards in 1952. Other research and development industries soon followed.

Boulder's History

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Blue Line

In 1959, Boulder voters approved the “Blue Line” city-charter amendment, which restricted city water service to altitudes below 5,750 feet in an effort to protect the mountain backdrop from development. The Blue Line concept was created by a group of concerned citizens, led by Al Bartlett, a professor at CU at the time.  Al remembers thinking, “What can we do?  We are just a couple of nobodies and the home builders are rich and powerful, and are working closely with the City Council.” Thanks to these dedicated citizens, we still enjoy the sanctity of our foothills today.

The Origin of the Blue Line Amendment

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Open Space

In 1967, Boulder voters made history by approving a 0.40 of a cent sales tax specifically to buy, manage, and maintain open space, the first time residents in any U.S. city had voted to tax themselves specifically for open space. The sales tax measure passed by a 57 percent majority. Today, over 45,000 acres of land has been preserved and protected. Wildlife habitat, unique geologic features, greenways and 155 miles of trails are all part of Open Space and Mountain Parks.

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In 1971, Boulder voted to limit the height of buildings to 55’, about the height of the tallest trees in the area.  This limit strives to preserve our view of the Flatirons and foothills, a view that is considered a key asset for most Boulderites.

Blue Line Poll 2019

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Pearl Street Mall

In 1974, Boulder’s Mayor appointed a “Core Area Revitalization Committee” (CARC). Despite controversies relating to a projected lack of parking and disruption of businesses, the Boulder City Council passed a resolution to establish the “Downtown Boulder Mall.” The section of Pearl Street between 11th and 15th streets was closed to traffic in June 1976. The new city park prohibited cars and allowed visitors to walk down the middle of Pearl Street. Pearl Street, once Boulder’s commercial artery, has become its cultural heart and soul.

Pearl Street Mall

Pearl Street Mall History

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Bicycle Friendly

While bicyclists and environmentalists had been advocating for bike paths since the early 60’s, the effort picked up steam in 1977 when the Transportation Department released “The Boulder Bikeway Plan,” which outlined a network of 77 miles of cycling routes.  As a result of their foresight, today Boulder is a special place for bicyclists. The Boulder Valley has more than 300 miles of bikeway, including 96 miles of bike lanes, 84 miles of mutli-use paths, and 50 miles of designated bike routes.

Bike Path Network History

Current Bike Path Info



Inclusionary Housing

The inclusionary housing program was first adopted in 2000 in response to the city’s housing challenges. This was an ambitious initiative to require all new residential development to provide 20 percent of the all new homes as permanently affordable to low and moderate-income households. The program has demonstrated considerable success over the years, with 7.5% of Boulder's housing stock now affordable for low income families.(credit:

Susan Peterson 13X square.jpg


Action is Needed

What are we going to do to make Boulder an even better place for future generations?  Here are some of my suggestions... please send me an email or stop me on the street to tell me some of yours!


  • Create a new process to ensure neighborhood and citizen engagement, bringing "of the people, by the people, for the people" to life

    •  Use today's technology to gather quantifiable, statistically significant polling information from neighbors, businesses and individuals on all important issues

    • Require city staff to use a data-driven approach as the basis for recommendations

  • Careful growth

    •  Develop new programs for better balancing our local workforce with the amount of housing and infrastructure we can provide for them, like working with other cities in the region to distribute more jobs to the places from which people are commuting.

    • Strengthen existing neighborhoods input by creating a Neighborhood Planning Board

  • 100% Renewable Energy by 2030

    • Beyond the climate benefits, which are HUGE, creating a 100% renewable energy base with a modern distribution grid would give the City the leeway to make decisions base on what's right for Boulder citizens, rather than being driven by what's most profitable for corporate shareholders

    • Incentivize and in the case of new building, require rooftop solar generation whenever feasible. C'mon, we get over 300 days of sunshine a year!

  • Move beyond a goal of "Net-Zero Community" to the creation of a "Rejuvenative Community", one that is not just net-neutral, but actually makes our environment, including air quality, better!

    • Prioritize and incentivize carbon sequestration in all agricultural lands, including Open Space

  • Actively protect the things previous generations put in place to make Boulder the great place it is today, like:

    • Supporting Open Space by supporting the continued Open Space Tax.

    • Protecting our mountain views by sticking to height limits, and even lowering them in areas where the view shed is deemed to be too great a community asset to forfeit.

    • Enforcing Inclusionary Housing, and adding new programs for middle income families that enable us to enjoy a diverse, inclusive community.

Please let me know your thoughts...what do YOU want our generation to be known for?

Contact Susan