Fishers Peak is a signature away from becoming Colorado's 42nd state park after the legislature passed Senate Bill 3 on Friday.
The Senate approved the House amendments unanimously Saturday morning.
Gov. Jared Polis called for the creation of the park last September in an executive order that designated the 9,633-foot mountain into the first designated park since 2013. At 19,200 acres and extending 55 square miles, Fishers Peak — expected to be renamed — becomes the second-largest state park in Colorado behind State Forest State Park near Walden at 71,000 acres.
The JBC didn't consider some of the uglier — and bigger — cuts proposed by the JBC staff, and it was at that moment that the weight of those recommendations began to show on the staff.
The newly passed bill transfers $1 million from the state budget to a construction fund to develop infrastructure on the property surrounding Fishers Peak. Any money that's left after three years will be transferred back to the state.
The bill was initially expected to generate $10 million, but it was lowered to $6 million then finally passed at $1 million.
The appropriation comes at a time of a tight budget, as lawmakers sought to cut billions from vital services. The park was originally expected to get $10 million.
The bill was sponsored by Senate President Leroy Garcia and Rep. Daneya Esgar, both Democrats from Pueblo, with Rep. Perry Will, a Republican from New Castle, and Sen. Dennis Hisey, a Republican from Colorado Springs.
The proposal passed the House 53-12 and the Senate originally approved the legislation 28-6 on Feb. 28.
“Colorado is known for its great outdoors, and whether it’s hiking, biking, fishing or camping, spending time in our beautiful open spaces is a part of the Colorado way of life," Garcia said in a statement. "Our parks are so popular in fact that many of them face overcrowding and habitat degradation.
“It’s clear that Coloradans need more public lands to protect and enjoy, so what better place than stunning Southern Colorado. By establishing a new state park in our own backyard, Southern Colorado will not only have access to one of the most iconic natural wonders in the region but also increase tourism dollars and preserve our local beauty for generations to come.”
Esgar, who chairs the legislature's budget-writing committee, cited the new state park in context of the coronavirus shutdown.
“After months of being cooped up, the importance of outdoor spaces has never been so apparent,” Esgar stated. “Southern Colorado is an incredibly beautiful place, but until recently, one of its crowning landmarks has been inaccessible. With this bill, Fishers Peak will be Colorado’s newest state park and bring with it a jolt to our local economy.”
Colorado public lands attract more than 15 million people visitors a year, the Senate president's office said, accounting for more than $1 billion. State parks help employ more than 7,000 people.
This story was updated to correct the amount for the park as reflected by a late amendment to the bill.