Home  |  News  |  Features & Opinions Archive  |  2011  |  Article

News: Features & Opinions Archive (2011)

« back

Date: June 2011

Jan Wilkins and Wayne Forman – OSAC’s Co-Chairs

Jan Wilkins and Wayne Forman – OSAC’s Co-Chairs When long-time OSAC Chairperson Greg Stevinson stepped down from this post as OSAC Chair in 2009, prior to the end of his term, Jan Wilkins and Wayne Forman – also seasoned veterans of OSAC, stepped up to co-chair the Committee. Finding that they worked together so well, they requested that this ruling structure remain in place, but alas...bylaws are bylaws, and OSAC doesn’t allow for co-chairing. So Wayne stepped into the Chairperson position, and Jan is now a Co-Vice Chair with Ken Morfit.

Talking with these two outside of an OSAC meeting is a genuinely pleasurable experience. Jan is warm and outgoing; she speaks freely of her involvement with open space issues over the years. Wayne is practical and forthcoming, and – as a practitioner of water, land use, and environmental law, extremely committed to Open Space.

Jan’s involvement as an activist for open space causes started around 1982, when – as a resident of Mount Vernon Country Club, on the west end of Lookout Mountain, she became chair of the Canyon Defense Coalition, an organization that opposed the plan to develop a rock quarry in Clear Creek Canyon. Her early exposure to Jefferson County’s approach to open space was her participation in the “Rock Round Table”, the County-initiated attempt at arbitration over this matter. Ultimately, and partially as a result of this experience, Jan developed her open space philosophy: “...just because land is undeveloped doesn’t mean that it’s preserved...”, and “...you need to buy it to preserve it!”

Jan also became a founding member of the Clear Creek Conservancy, citing Clear Creek as “a jewel on Denver’s doorstep, and a gift to this part of the world”. During this time she also stepped up to serve as President of the Mount Vernon Country Club. Never one to sit still for long, Jan teamed with Margot Zallen, Chair of PLAN Jeffco, Sharon Freeman and others to help with Save Open Space, a campaign organized by PLAN Jeffco and supported by OSAC, which at the time was being chaired by Greg Stevinson. The $160M revenue bond issue - to raise money to acquire open space land throughout Jefferson County - passed with a whopping 72 percent of the vote of county residents. As Jan said, “It’s one thing to oppose development; it’s another to form a method to save open space lands...the SOS campaign reflected the commitment of the voters.”

In 1998, Jan swapped her role as an Open Space activist for that of a politically-oriented Open Space advocate when she was appointed to OSAC.

To paraphrase Jan – the voters have seen so many key acquisitions since the passage of the SOS bond – they’ve been able to see what’s happened with the bond funds they approved with SOS. They’ve seen years of maintaining integrity in land acquisitions, of avoiding politicization of the process, of unwavering delivery of the process based on the founding principles of OSAC. In a moment of lightness, Jan confirmed that OSAC has had so much fun achieving the OS goals with the bond money...”OSAC, the most fun that you can have on a committee in this county!”

Jan spoke of Centennial Cone OS Park...dear to her heart, since it was very near the site of the proposed rock quarry back in the 80s, and is now almost totally protected open space. “Imagine, it went from a proposal for the largest gravel quarry in the state, to include 400 trucks a day, 7 days a week, traveling on Highway 6, to the crown jewel of Open Space. Centennial Cone is the best of citizen activism – it’s fulfilled such terrific ideals, 40 years of people’s visions...”

Wayne Forman’s attraction to Open Space began with his mountain biking excursions through the Open Space Park trails system. A 1984 graduate of CU Law in Boulder, and subsequently a resident of Denver’s Park Hill area, he saw Jefferson County Open Space as a way to “get away from it all”. In 1993 he moved to Genesee, in part to be closer to the lands that he’d grown to love. He’d been a JeffCo resident for about 6 months when he saw a notice in a local paper for an opening on OSAC. He applied, and was appointed as a reserve committee member. Wayne deprecatingly speaks of himself as the “token Democrat” of OSAC.

Wayne has a reputation among his colleagues as a quiet but very wise man. As per Jan, “...when Wayne has a point to make, it’s based on reason and logic.”

When asked about the “co-chair method” of governing OSAC, both Jan and Wayne agreed that it was great to have coverage for meetings and other events...one or another would always be available. At the end of the term, when it was evident that the “cochair method” would have to come to an end, Wayne and Jan discussed the issue and decided that Wayne would put his hat in the ring for the chair position, which he won. The question, of course, is “how different is the governing structure when it’s hierarchical (i.e. a single chairman) versus when there are two people sharing the leadership responsibility. Both agreed that the difference is minimal. Since Wayne took over as OSAC chair, the committee mindset has changed; the committee is now “a group of equals that is 'horizontally balanced" with a lot of cross-person engagement and interaction”, to quote the two former co-chairs.

Wayne spoke to the invaluable nature of citizen participation in Open Space matters. He strongly believes that OSAC has to answer to the voting public, and that its mission is to benefit the Greater Good. “There’s a lot of balancing involved when you’re on OSAC; you have to hear all sides, you have to strike a proper balance.” According to Wayne, JCOS staff takes a lot of input early in the decisionmaking process, especially with individual and community meetings; they then share with and work very tightly with OSAC to develop a going-forward plan. “There’s two-way respect in the relationship, and OSAC trusts in the JCOS staff’s work, expertise, and recommendations.” Jan agreed, adding that “JCOS [staff] makes it easy for OSAC to make good decisions.”

The conversation then moved to the challenges facing OSAC and JCOS. The bond monies are mostly spent, and for the foreseeable future the organization will be working with an extremely tight budget of approximately $6M per year for acquisitions, development and joint venture grants. Open Space supporters are aging, and finding ways to attract a new population of supporters will be on the top of OSAC’s (and JCOS’s) to-do list. With OSAC’s support, JCOS Director Tom Hoby has launched a project to survey existing and potential users of Open Space properties, in an attempt to take the pulse of the changing demographics and understand how trail use concepts are shifting. Jan remarked on the recent Open Space Foundation photo contest, in the category of ‘Kids Under 18’ alone there were over 100 entries, many of which were of remarkable quality. She feels that this bodes well for support from the youngest generation.

Speaking to the future: “We are entering a new part in the life of the Open Space Program, where the focus is shifting from just acquisitions to more of an acquisition-development-management balance...we’ve got as much land as we could acquire, and now big blocks of land outstrip our financial capacity to acquire them...but we will manage.”

Speaking to the topic of the value that Open Space adds to Jefferson County, “...after more than 30 years involvement with Open Space, it’s apparent that the recognition of Open Space to the health of the county has never been stronger...there’s strong support from the Board of County Commissioners, the cities, and the park ‘n’ rec districts...natural resources (i.e. Open Space) are proeconomy, pro-lifestyle, and pro-quality of life...Open Space adds value to living in Jefferson county.”

In summary, Wayne pointed out that “people get involved initially [with Open Space] as an advocate for a point of view, to have the opportunity to make a difference. PLAN Jeffco and other agencies – MALT, CCLC, CARE, and many others – give people a chance to advocate.” From Jan’s point of view: “...with the very broad base of support [that Open Space has], I feel very optimistic about the foundation we all have laid for the Open Space program.”

« back


PLAN Jeffco continues to play a key role in Open Space policy and direction in Jefferson County. Become a part this legacy—join us today!