Governor Polis signed a bill Sunday, March 21 transferring funds for state park capital improvements that are expected to benefit Fishers Peak State Park among eleven others.
A $20 million fund from the Colorado general fund was approved for transfer to the capital improvement fund. Colorado Parks & Wildlife said the appropriation will be used at 12 locations.
“We all have an obligation to our lands, waters and wildlife to recreate responsibly and monitor how our increased outdoor activities impact the places we play,” said Dan Prenzlow, CPW director. “More Coloradans are enjoying our great outdoors — and this additional funding will help our agency expand park facilities based on the evolving needs of our park visitors to ensure we can maintain a quality park system for years to come.”
CPW expects to use the funds for park enhancements and expansions, CPW gave some examples of projects it could complete at the 12 parks including new trails, service buildings, campgrounds and shooting bays.
CPW has allocated $3 million out of the $20 million total for projects at Fishers Peak State Park, said Bridget Kochel, statewide public information officer for CPW.
“This request will help complete a trails feasibility study, which will guide the construction of environmentally friendly and sustainable trails,” said Kochel. “Approximately 15 to 20 miles of trails will be built for hikers and bikers, including a hiking trail to the top of Fishers Peak. Funding will also be used to create additional trailheads and trail amenities like signage and benches.”
The money set aside for Fishers Peak State Park is for “accelerating the development of Fishers Peak State Park,” according to language in the bill.
The 19,200-acre park currently does not permit dogs or bicycles, and only has about 250 acres of the park open to the public, according to the CPW website.
A 2020 release from CPW explains why only a minute portion of the park is currently open to the public.
“At Fishers Peak, we set out from the beginning to try a new model,” said Crystal Dreiling, Fishers Peak/Trinidad Lake Park manager. “In order to offer some limited public access sooner, we identified a small corner of the property on which to conduct intense, rapid ecological and archaeological assessments. Once our various experts cleared this area, we set about constructing our Sneak Peek area.”
CPW is currently gathering public input as part of its master plan for the new state park. This process is expected to run until 2022.
“CPW anticipates Fishers Peak State Park will be fully staffed, operational and open to the public sometime in fiscal year 2029 or 2030, assuming adequate funding is available for development,” said Bill Vogrin, Southeast Regional Office spokesman. “This timeline is consistent with the methodical approach that CPW uses to prioritize available capital construction resources across the entire 42-state park system.”
Between 2014 and 2015 state park usage grew by 2.2 million visitor days, and another 30 percent during the spring of 2020.
“It was simple for me to stand up and say this is a good deal for Colorado and District 35 in particular,” said Cleave Simpson, district 35 state senator. Simpson sponsored the bill but told The Chronicle-News that he would have supported the bill even if he wasn’t asked to sign on as a sponsor.
The other parks receiving funds for capital improvement projects include Boyd Lake State Park (Larimer County), Lake Pueblo State Park (Pueblo County), Cherry Creek State Park (Arapahoe County), the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (Chaffee County), Ridgeway State Park (Ouray County), Steamboat Lake State Park (Routt county), North Sterling State Park (Logan
County), Chatfield State Park (Douglas and Jefferson Counties) and the Cameo Shooting and Education Complex (Mesa County).