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Fishers Peak. Photo by Wayne D. Lewis

Colorado (Officially) Has a New State Park Near Trinidad

Colorado Parks and Wildlife acquired the Fishers Peak property Thursday—just in time for time for Colorado Public Lands Day this weekend (though it won’t be open just yet).

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Outdoor enthusiasts, rejoice: Colorado got its 42nd state park this week, with Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s (CPW) announcement on Thursday of their official purchase of a property near Trinidad, dubbed by its prominent landmark, Fishers Peak. The 19,200-acre ranch—just 7 miles north of the New Mexico border and across I-25 from Trinidad Lake State Park—boasts the 9,633-foot namesake peak, varied habitat, and native wildlife like elk, deer, mountain lions, and black bears.

“We’re pretty excited to get people on the property and enjoying at least part of it as soon as possible,” says Bill Vogrin, spokesperson for CPW’s Southeast region. The park will eventually be open for camping, hunting, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and more.

“It’s become more evident than ever that access to the outdoors is an important part of everyone’s physical and mental well-being,” Jim Petterson, the Trust for Public Land’s Colorado state director said in a news release on Thursday. The purchase of the private property was made in partnership with the Trust for Public Land, as well as the City of Trinidad, the Nature Conservancy, and Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO)—with the latter fronting most of the bill ($17.25 million of the $25.4 million acquisition, to be exact). And while the new space won’t be open to the public just yet, the official purchase of the land comes just in time for Colorado Public Lands Day on Saturday, May 16.

Fishers Peak itself is an outcrop of ancient lava flows from Raton Mesa, and the land is largely undeveloped according to Vogrin, making for a unique experience. “You get a sense for what it was like when Native Americans were using it as a beacon, and pioneers were drawn to it, and the Santa Fe Trail was routed around it,” Vogrin says. “You’re stepping back in time in a big way there, and that’s very cool.”

The park will be closed to the public until further notice, but Vogrin says CPW promised Gov. Jared Polis to have the space opened by 2021—even though it usually takes several years to get a park open. CPW will instead try a phased approach and open certain areas of the park to limited public access as soon as they’re ready, mostly with access to hiking trails at first, according to Vogrin. There is no tentative date right now for an initial opening.

Like most things at the moment, the project is also facing its fair share of financial uncertainty, with massive cuts to the state budget expected—and hesitation from lawmakers on the State Parks Improvement Appropriation bill—in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. But in the meantime, Vogrin says they’re still preparing the master plan for the park and beginning to tackle all of the logistics, including the biologists studying the land to get an idea of how to protect endangered species living in the area, like the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse. CPW will also be taking public input throughout the planning process, which you can voice through their website.

“It’s beautiful,” Vogrin says. “And I’m excited for people to experience all the many faces of Fishers Peak.”

For the latest updates on the park’s progress and how to offer input, head to CPW’s website

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