by Bill Knowles
TRINIDAD — The bill designed to improve Colorado state parks found itself $4 million shy coming out of the Colorado Senate on Feb. 28, having passed with a 28-6 vote. The original bill, which called for $10 million to be appropriated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife for the year, had slated $6 million to bring the newest state park, Fisher’s Peak, to its opening, which will probably happen in September 2020. The amount granted was slashed, however, to $6 million total. Accordingly, $4 million will go towards the new park, while the remaining funds of $2 million will be used to make improvements at other state parks.
Senators John Cooke (R) from Weld County, Chris Holbert (R) from Douglas County, Minority Whip Paul Lundeen (R) from El Paso County, Minority Caucus Chair Vicki Marbel (R) from District 23 comprised from parts of Broomfield, Larimer, and Weld Counties, Jim Smallwood (R) from Douglas County, and Republican Jerry Sonnenberg from District 1, comprised of several counties in the northeast area of the state, all cast a “no” vote. The democrats all voted in favor of the bill and were joined by 10 republicans.
What the impact of the $2 million cut in the allocation for Fisher’s Peak will be, no one can say at the moment, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commissioner Jim Vigil said during a phone call. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission is holding a meeting via phone this week to discuss their options not only for Fisher’s Peak State Park but for other state parks that need the maintenance and improvements.
Even with a tight state budget, sponsors had hoped to be able to put up a one-time infusion of money from the state’s general fund and make some big improvements to the state’s parks in an effort to get ahead of the game.
Some of the issues that prompted the cut are pressing needs for funding in other areas such as roads and schools.
A statement released by the Colorado Department of Natural Resources to KOAA TV said: “Our 60 year old system accommodates over 15 million visitors each year… many of our facilities are aging and require continuous maintenance and improvement to keep up with this level of visitation… we will continue to prioritize utilizing our existing funds wisely and… pursuing additional innovative funding opportunities to address our state parks’ long term and ongoing maintenance and improvement needs.”
The bill is now in the House and has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.