Governor Jared Polis, during a bill signing tour Monday, stopped in Trinidad to sign Senate Bill 3 into law which provides $1 million in support to Colorado Parks and Wildlife to begin developing Fisher’s Peak into a Colorado state park.
The governor’s office kept the event exclusive to a small group of lawmakers and state and local dignitaries.
Polis called the funding critical to opening the 19,200-acre park to the public. The governor opined that the state park will be an economic engine that will hopefully drive the economy of Trinidad and the region.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Director Dan Prenzlow also spoke. “This is a big day because developing our 42nd state park is not as simple as opening the gates and inviting the public. CPW parks staff, wildlife and aquatic biologists, engineers, wildlife managers and all our partners are deep into the process of transforming this former ranch into a showplace for all who might want to recreate here.”
Prenzlow said CPW was committed to opening the park by 2021. To do that, CPW is accelerating the design and construction of the park from a multi-year process to just a single year. Prenzlow said the funding from Senate Bill 3 would expedite the process.
“This is a perfect example of how a community and how a state can come together,” said Las Animas County Commissioner Luis Lopez II. “You don’t see that very often. It’s very difficult to get these types of accomplishments done, especially in this timely of a manner. This is a great accomplishment for the state of Colorado, for the citizens of Las Animas County, and for the citizens of Trinidad.”
The bill signing brought bi-partisan praise from across the state. Representative Daneya Esgar, a Pueblo Democrat, sponsored the bill.
“Colorado has some of the best state parks in the country, and soon we’ll add one more, the beautiful Fishers Peak in Southern Colorado,” said Esgar. “Our state parks contribute significantly to our communities, and Fishers peak will draw visitors from across the region, boosting our small businesses and Southern Colorado’s economy. Parks like Fisher’s Peak create the outdoor recreation options that Coloradans love and our state is known for.”
“This is a really important day,” said Trinidad Mayor Phil Rico. “Without the city council giving the green light to move forward with this project back in 2017, it would not have happened. This is going to be an economic driver for our community, the county, and the state so it’s going to be big. It’s been a process. It’s been a difficult year for state legislature and the persistence from all the state legislators to see the value of this project is really important. It gives the City of Trinidad and all it’s residents hope that the state legislature is behind the City of Trinidad and this project.”
Ahead of the governor’s visit, rumors circulated in Trinidad that the park would also be renamed. Local officials including Trinidad Mayor Phil Rico and Las Animas County Commissioner Luis Lopez dismissed the rumor as untrue and unfortunate. The governor’s office was asked to confirm this, but did not respond.
According to CPW biologists have been combing the property to inventory the flora and fauna for months. Among their discoveries was the presence of the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse. The agency also says that bird surveys continue and are going well; biologists believe they have found a potential golden eagle nest as well as a nesting pair of peregrine falcons. They also report owl sightings. Meanwhile, reptile surveys have found an unusual lizard species, a variable skink, making the property likely the only state park with this species.
CPW reported that biologists have also deployed dozens of trail cameras across the property to study everything moving on the ground. There’s even coordinated weed-mapping underway with experts studying plants to formulate the appropriate seed mixture to use when landscaping areas of the park.
“The information gathered will then be combined with research into the archaeological and cultural history of the property,” said CPW. “Next comes the public process as planners gather input to set management goals for the property and design recreation areas that include roads, parking lots, restrooms, picnic areas, trails and wildlife-viewing areas for the public to enjoy.”
CPW also said that crews have begun grading and laying gravel on a new access road and parking lot. Installing vault toilets is expected to be completed in the coming days.
On Monday Director Prenzlow said, “I’m confident when we finally open these gates, the public will be thrilled at the park that will greet them.”