Fifty Years of Inspired Planning: Boulder


  • How to approach a legacy of planning long rooted in community engagement, open-space preservation, and growth management
  • How to align plans between city and county and within a governmental organization, including transportation plans, utility plans, and capital improvements plans
  • How to plan for emerging or unknown trends and correct for unintended consequences in long-range planning


Fifty years ago, the residents of Boulder, Colorado, were the first in the nation to tax themselves to buy open space to establish the city's green belt (70-plus square miles) and to pay for multimodal trails (300-plus miles of on- and off-street multi-use trails) and bus circulators. Forty years ago, the city and county jointly adopted a comprehensive plan and intergovernmental agreement addressing an urban service area and growth limits. After decades of community-driven planning, preservation, and growth management, what new challenges is Boulder facing? While dealing with new trends and demographic shifts, Boulder is evolving planning and achieving sustainability ideals, continually improving and closing the gap between vision and implementation. Redevelopment and mixed-use infill, for example, is the new norm, as is planning for natural disasters such as floods and fires as both have become more prevalent. The current comprehensive plan addresses emerging issues such as resilience and self-sufficiency, affordability, equity, climate and energy, complete streets, and 15-minute neighborhoods. This course offers a candid conversation about unintended consequences and new challenges over decades of planning and explores linkages between the comprehensive plan and other master plans, including those for transportation, open space, and capital improvements.