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Great Outdoors

Colorado State Parks Promote Accessibility And Eco-Friendly Tourism

Kait Herzog

Colorado wants its plentiful great outdoors to be more enjoyable for all.

The Centennial State has launched a plan to open additional state parks and improve existing parks’ services, emphasizing cleaner air, conserving land, and making the parks more accessible and eco-friendly.

This includes increasing the number of electric vehicle charging stations across the state. With tourism rapidly increasing–up to 18.3 million people visited Colorado’s State Parks in 2020–these upgrades are essential to a great visitor experience and park sustainability.

Opening two new state parks, one at Sweetwater Lake and the other at Fishers Peak, adds thousands of pristine acres to the preserved land across the state.

Photo Courtesy Aaron Burden

“Conservation is another key goal of our Colorado park system,” said Governor Jared Polis. “Fishers Peak is one of our largest state parks, and it also is adjacent to [wildlife protection] lands in New Mexico, so it creates tens of thousands of acres of protected habitat for many different species that are threatened.

Sweetwater Lake, frankly, risked development. If we hadn’t worked with Eagle Valley Land Trust and others to put it in permanent stewardship as a State Park, it likely would have been developed as maybe a golf course or luxury housing. So we were able to maintain the area not only for its iconic beauty and recreational fun but also for conservation.”

With bipartisan support from state lawmakers, Polis is making sure these new state parks and existing ones will have plenty of electric charging options and be more accessible for disabled visitors. Three state parks have free off-road wheelchair rentals. The governor also dropped the price of an annual park pass from $84 to $29 to encourage all Coloradoans to visit.

Photo Courtesy Joe Dudeck

The new state park plans to supplement the ongoing electrification of Colorado’s scenic and historic byways. The state will ensure that all drivers have access to chargers at intervals no greater than 100 miles along the byways. These new charging stations will soon be on every byway, making electrified trips of iconic drives such as the Lariat Loop and the Top of the Rockies byway possible. With almost 15 percent of all new cars and trucks sold in Colorado electric, residents and visitors are ready to charge up and explore.

“Coloradans love the great outdoors, and our State Parks are some of their most popular destinations. We are incredibly excited…to increase electric vehicle charging station access to the places Coloradans and visitors love to come camp, recreate, wildlife watch or just get outside to enjoy what Colorado and our state parks have to offer,” said Dan Gibbs, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

“Colorado has a world-class state park system and is a leader in the cost-saving transition to electric vehicles,” Polis added. “Our administration is making record investments in electric vehicles and are empowering Coloradans who are choosing electric vehicles to make a great escape to iconic outdoor destinations while recharging for their next adventure. We are committed to delivering cleaner air and driving eco-friendly tourism to preserve and protect our amazing public lands.”

These changes are just the beginning of Colorado’s shift to cleaner power sources. The state is also working on an electric school bus program for all districts and funding $12 million in rebates for consumers who purchase electric bikes.

Photo Courtesy Sophie Jonas
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