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Less than one week after Governor Jared Polis officially opened a portion of Colorado’s newest state park, Fishers Peak near Trinidad, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) announced that it’s on the hunt for even more land to protect—and they are looking for your help to find it. The state agency created a portal where people can suggest land throughout Colorado that might be a good fit as an outdoor recreation area (with the permission of the land owner, of course).
“It’s a crowdsourcing challenge,” says CPW’s statewide public information officer Bridget Kochel. “It’s a great opportunity for us to really unlock the wisdom of our community, and to open up the door to ideas that we haven’t even thought of.”
Coloradans love to get outdoors—a fact made clear by the visitation records set at state parks nearly every year. According to CPW, this year’s numbers are currently up 30 to 50 percent over last year, due in large part to people trying to get outside during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because of the continued increase in interest, CPW is seeking citizens’ help to pinpoint more areas that are ripe for state park status. Submissions must fit a set of guidelines set forth by CPW: The outdoor space must provide nature-based recreation, conserve natural resources, meet Colorado’s needs, provide community value, and support a financially sustainable system.
The goal is to provide more hiking, fishing, hunting, and biking options for outdoor-loving Coloradans. “If someone had private land, and they were willing to open it up to the public, it would give everyone an opportunity to go take advantage of that land,” says Kochel.
It’s also a way for the state to protect the land. Erosion? CPW takes care of it. Wildlife populations? CPW protects them. Overused or abused land? CPW has it covered.
“The beauty of public land,” says Kochel, “is that Coloradans can use it for outdoor recreation, but it’s also kept protected for wildlife populations—versus having commercial real estate buildings built up in that area.”
Kochel also mentioned that state parks typically provide an economic boon for nearby towns and local businesses. For example, while only 250 of the 19,200 acres of Fishers Peak are currently open for exploring, many expect the location will eventually increase tourism in southern Colorado.
“We’re still definitely maintaining our current park system,” Kochel says. “But it would be wonderful if we could build upon it even more.”