Gov. Jared Polis created Colorado's 42nd state park, and its second-largest, Monday when he signed Senate Bill 3.
The bill reallocates about $1 million for improvements at Fisher's Peak in Las Animas County. The bill originally asked for $10 million, then was amended to $6 million and passed the House and Senate at $1 million, given deep budget cuts forced by the COVID-19 shutdown.
"The property provides an iconic backdrop to the city of Trinidad and presents a rare opportunity to benefit the local economy, achieve landscape-level conservation, and provide recreational access to more than thirty square miles of public land," the new law states about the park that covers more than 55 square miles.
The bill was sponsored by two Pueblo Democrats, Senate President Leroy Garcia and Rep. Daneya Esgar, who chairs the Joint Budget Committee, and two Republicans, Sen. Dennis Hisey of Fountain and Rep. Perry Will of New Castle, a retired state wildlife officer.
The project was a partnership of the city of Trinidad, Great Outdoors Colorado, The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Garcia characterized it Monday as an economic driver.
"This is incredibly valuable for local economies and job markets," he said in a statement. "However, despite Southern Colorado's notable beauty, the area has not had the same access to tourism dollars as the rest of the state. Now with the creation of a new state park at Fishers Peak, the surrounding areas will not only have access to an iconic landmark but also receive an economic boost."
Said Esgar: “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. 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 Fishers Peak create the outdoor recreation options that Coloradans love and our state is known for.”
Suzanne O'Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation, said it was "uplifting" that legislators came through with support for "all Coloradans seeking more outdoor recreation options, wildlife enthusiasts and other conservationists."
Kelly Nordini, executive director of Conservation Colorado, said the COVID-19 crisis showed the importance of open spaces in this state, "which makes it more clear than ever before that investments in our lands, waters and wildlife are critical pieces of a recovery that centers job creation and public health."
She applauded the state policymakers who supported that.
"Getting outdoors safely is key to the public health and economic recovery of the state of Colorado from the COVID-19 crisis," Emily Gedeon, acting chapter director, Colorado Sierra Club.