Residents of Trinidad have long identified with Fishers Peak, a 9,633-foot-high landmark in southern Colorado, but the public wasn’t allowed to visit the area because it was part of a private ranch. That changed Monday when Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill to make it Colorado’s newest state park.
The 19,200-acre site, 6 miles southeast of Trinidad, will open to the public on a limited basis starting in October or November as Colorado’s 42nd state park and its second-largest. It’s expected to open more fully with more amenities next spring.
The state acquired the land from The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land, which signed an agreement in 2018 to pay $25.4 million to buy the Crazy French Ranch from its private owners. The organizations and the city of Trinidad had been interested for a while in seeing the site become public lands.
“For the residents of Trinidad, Fishers Peak looms large above the town and for many years they hadn’t been able to legally access it,” Polis said in a phone call after signing the bill. “I think residents are very excited that they’ll be able to recreate in their own backyard. And Trinidad businesses and southern Colorado businesses are excited that they’ll have more visitation from other parts of Colorado and New Mexico.”
The yet-to-be-named park is just 7 miles north of the New Mexico border. Money to buy the site came from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the legislature and Great Outdoors Colorado, which uses a portion of state lottery revenues to preserve and conserve parks, trails and open spaces.
Carlos Fernandez, Colorado State Director for The Nature Conservancy, said in an email that $1 million recently approved by the legislature for state parks “will help ensure a robust planning process” for Fishers Peak.
The park, with its abundant wildlife and “amazing outdoor recreation opportunities,” is uplifting for the community, all Coloradans seeking more outdoor recreation options, wildlife enthusiasts and other conservationists, Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation, said in a statement.
The 30-square-mile park includes towering volcanic cliffs, forests, grasslands, wetlands, streams and important wildlife migration corridors. Area wildlife include elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, black bears, mountain lions and wild turkeys.
Colorado officials have said that demands are growing on the state’s parks and public lands. The state parks get more than 15 million visits each year, contributing about $1.2 billion annually to the economy, according to the legislation signed by Polis.
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