Gov. Jared Polis took a 100-yard hike Friday, Oct. 30, on one of the first trails to open at Colorado’s new 19,200-acre Fishers Peak State Park. He was also the first person to buy a Colorado Parks and Wildlife day pass from the park’s kiosk located near new signage in the park’s 92-car parking lot.
At 3 p.m. the 42nd state park officially opened to the public, which will now be open from daylight to sunset daily. But that was not all that happened.
The governor signed an executive order (B 2020 008) of importance to all Coloradans, and Shoshana Lew, executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation, made an announcement about improving I-25’s Exit 11, which will be the main exit to get to and from the state park.
Also mentioned were ways both Trinidad and Colorado residents could give their opinions on Fishers Peak and any other space they think should become a state park.
Polis was in Trinidad to cut the opening ribbon for the park’s first trailhead. Originally, a part of the park was planned to open in early 2021; however, CPW staff worked hard to open the park earlier. The governor and about 50 state and local officials held a socially distanced and masks-required ceremony that ended with a ribbon-cutting, a pass purchase and an executive order signing.
“It feels like my birthday!” exclaimed park manager Crystal Dreiling, who was key along with other CPW employees in getting the first 250 acres open. However, she wanted to also tell readers that “it will take some time,” in other words several years, to get the park fully open. She doesn’t want them to be disappointed.
Afterall, if one does the math, 250 acres is only 1.3 percent of the entire park, which is still in the master planning stages with park partners The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land, Great Outdoors Colorado, the city of Trinidad and CPW.
But visitors can get a taste of what’s to come: three trails of varying difficulty, some interpretive signing and five picnic tables.
As mentioned above, Shoshana Lew of CDOT was one of the officials who spoke during the ceremony.
“The Colorado Department of Transportation is a supporting actor of this park,” Lew said. “Exit 11 needs work from a safety perspective, and I am pleased to announce we will accelerate this project.”
Via email, CDOTs Region 2 communications manager Michelle Peulen said the modernization of Exit 11 will include the following: one roundabout on each side of I-25 to lessen the traffic problem at the ramp and frontage road intersection, and a bridge crossing I-25 that will replace the current aging structure. Also included will be an improved pedestrian/bike crossing between the two sides of I-25.
“The project is a high priority for the department and region,” Peulen said, echoing what Lew emphasized Oct. 30.
Bidding for the project will begin in spring 2020, Lew said. The state legislature’s Transportation Commission OK’d $11 million of funding for Exit 11 via Senate Bill 267. The commission also approved an additional $2 million for Fisher’s Peak State Park’s related transportation improvements along the interstate.
Peulen noted that as the project progresses, “CDOT has and will continue to work very closely with the South Central Transportation Planning Region as well as the city of Trinidad.”
During the ceremony, Polis signed Executive Order B 2020 008, “Creating the Colorado Outdoor Regional Partnerships Initiative and Establishing the Inter-Agency Conservation and Recreation Council.”
Ensuring that Colorado outdoor resources are available to future generations was a topic that many of the officials discussed Oct. 30.
Dan Prenzlow, CPW director, said of the park opening: ‘We see this as an opportunity to educate future stewards of the land.”
And the president of Trinidad State Junior College, Rhonda Epper, said her institution will benefit from the park being so near. The college already has a Trail Construction and Maintenance associate degree set to begin this coming spring.
“Our collaboration continues to grow,” she said. “I am so proud to be a part of this moment.” Epper presented the governor with a baseball jersey from the college’s winning Region Nine season in 2008 after which he said he would like to practice with the current team.
“I’m going to come practice with them sometime,” Gov. Polis said with a smile. “I didn’t bring my glove today.”
According to the written executive order, the partnership initiative will convene “a broad spectrum of voices to identify create and formalize local and regional collaborations” and will be called the Colorado Outdoor Regional Partnerships. The initiative, it is hoped, will create a state-level vision “for balancing recreation and conservation and to ensure equitable and sustainable access to outdoor recreation.”
The order also creates the Inter-Agency Conservation and Recreation Council, which will support the initiative “ensuring collaboration among state agencies whose work impacts outdoor recreation and the conservation of natural resources.”
To have one’s voice heard about Fishers Peak State Park or any future park site suggestions, a couple ways are currently available. Soon, the master planning committee will have its own questionnaire to share with residents; it will also hold public meetings.
For now, to comment about the newest park, visit fisherspeakstatepark.com/en/contact-us. To suggest a future park site, contact CPW with this form at https://cpw.state.co.us/Documents/About/CO-StateParks_Nomination_Instructions.pdf.
Also, for now, Fishers Peak State Park T-shirts, hats, stickers, pint glasses and other items will be for sale at Trinidad Lake State Park Visitor Center, 32610 Highway 12. For more information about the new park, visit fisherspeakstatepark.com.