Saturday, May 16, is Colorado Public Lands Day, a holiday established in 2016 to focus on this state's very great outdoors, and Coloradans now have one more impressive swath of public land to celebrate.
More than a year after joining partnership to acquire a 19,200-acre ranch in southern Colorado that includes the towering, 9,633-foot-high landmark known as Fishers Peak, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has completed the purchase, clearing the way for creation of the state’s 42nd state park.
Although Fishers Peak is still closed to public access, most of Colorado's 41 other state parks should be open this weekend.
And yes, they're open to all. Even though this state is in its safer-at-home phase and Governor Jared Polis has called for Coloradans "to recreate within ten miles of your home," most state parks are even allowing camping again.
For those who live in central Denver, the ten-mile limit can be a little constraining, though some people could make it to Barr Lake or Chatfield. Still, how firm is that ten-mile recommendation?
"It hasn't been rescinded," says Travis Duncan, CPW public information officer. "We're still advising folks to stay as close to home as you can."
But if you hear the great outdoors calling, you can answer that call wherever it may take you in Colorado...as long as you follow best practices, he says.
And those best practices definitely include watching out for the communities you'll be passing through, which may have had limited exposure to COVID-19. As Duncan advises: "Recreate, keep a safe distance, and go home." And pack in what you need, rather than rely on local stores. "You need to be self-contained," he notes.
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This weekend, most, if not all, of Colorado's state parks will be open, and camping will be allowed, after staffers have made changes to allow social distancing and other safety measures to be observed. Observes Duncan: "Camps may not look the same."
But if you want to see for yourself, the state won't stop you. Just remember to stock up on supplies, check the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website for the latest information, make a reservation if you plan to camp (and can find one at cpwshop.com, then hit the road for a site that might just be beyond the ten-mile limit. Admits Duncan, "We won't be monitoring your license plates."
The addition of Fishers Peak to the state's park portfolio illustrates the importance of the outdoors not just to Colorado residents, but Colorado itself. “The state’s acquisition of Fishers Peak is an exciting milestone for Colorado outdoor recreationists, wildlife watchers, hunters and residents and businesses of southern Colorado,” Governor Jared Polis said in announcing the deal. “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that Coloradans highly value their open spaces and outdoor recreation opportunities. Colorado was one of the few states to keep our state parks open during this entire crisis because recreating at a safe space outdoors is a healthy part of our lifestyles. Adding Fishers Peak as our next state park will increase opportunities to explore a unique and stunning part of Colorado.”
For now, you can learn more about Fishers Peak online. And if you're staying safer at home this weekend, you can still enjoy this state's public lands through virtual events honoring Colorado Public Lands Day; find out more here.