Congress Lets Federal Fund that Paid $270 Million for Colorado Trails, Land Expire

<p>Courtesy of Lisa Lynch/National Park Service</p>
<p>The painted wall inside the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Montrose County, Colo.</p>
Photo: Black Canyon Of The Gunnison NP | Painted Wall - NPS
The painted wall inside the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Montrose County, Colo.

A federal fund that's paid for public land improvements across Colorado's national parks and built trails on the Front Range expired over the weekend — and environmental groups are crying foul.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund has pumped nearly $270 million into the state over the last 50 years. The money comes from offshore drilling royalties.

“There's no good reason to let this expire. Congress needs to act, get this done and provide for permanent reauthorization, and full and dedicated funding,” said Jim Ramey, Colorado director of the Wilderness Society.

Right now, Ramey said it’s unclear where money will come from for future public land improvements.

“Say you are hypothetically sitting down tomorrow to begin your new park project planning and figuring out the funding. It's not a foregone conclusion that you'll be able to rely on this,” Ramey added.

In the past, the Conservation Fund had been a reliable stream of money for everything from building dog parks to adding pedestrian bridges.

Despite bipartisan support from Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Republican Cory Gardner, Congress was unable to authorize legislation. Ramey thinks the bipartisan support speaks well to eventual reauthorization. But given the upcoming midterms and Congressional recess it could take a while.

Ultimately, Ramey said there should be a permanent funding authorization. Most recently, in 2016, Congress renewed funding for a two-year increment. Before that, Congress had reauthorized funds for 25 years at a time.

Here are some highlights from project grants over the years:

  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, land acquisition near Park boundary, $5.3 million, 2013.
  • Milk Run Trail, Salida, $178,890, 2011.
  • Ute Pass Trail Work, El Paso County, $77,200, 2005.
  • Cherry Creek State Park, Dog off-leash area, $547,565, 2011.
  • Riverside Park, Englewood, $767,781, 1975.
  • Poudre River Trail, improvements near &1st Ave in Greeley, $250,000, 2003.
  • Vanderbilt Park, No. 2 Ballfields Denver, $138,927, 1975.
  • Rampart Park, Colorado Springs, $80,501, 1980.
  • Nederland Recreational Facility, Nederland, $42,500, 1988.
  • St. Vrain Greenway, Longmont, $200,000, 2006.