Heavy rains and subsequent flooding earlier this year damaged sections of Fishers Peak State Park that had only been open for about a year. The closure lasted about three weeks, and the site is currently open. In the meantime, the master planning process for one of Colorado's newest state parks is ongoing.
KRCC's Mike Procell spoke with park manager Crystal Dreiling about how they're recovering and moving forward.
On how busy the park has been:
From the beginning, from day one when we swung the gates open, we've seen steady, but light to moderate use out there. And we still have just that modest opening since we're completing the master planning for the rest of the property.
We're still at only about 250 acres open to the public, and that's just a small percentage of that 19,200 acres overall that we're planning out there. Just a handful of trails, about two miles of trails and a couple of picnic areas out there as well.
So I think that we've been very outspoken about the fact that this is a limited opening, that it’s their sneak peek opening to the new state park.
Visitation has been a little bit hard to measure because we've had a lot of construction from the time of those torrential rains. That kind of tore up what we built out there. And that was around May 23, 24, that we had to close that down. And really up until today, we've had construction in there.
We just recently paved the entrance road and the parking lot to the trailhead, which we didn't foresee having to do early on, but for a number of reasons, we decided to do that. And so with all that construction, it's hard for us to get a good count on our vehicle counter, but I'm estimating about maybe 500 visitors per month in the summer months.
On the impact of the heavy rains earlier this year:
This project has been a labor of love. So many of us worked so hard to have something open to the public in record time. We've never done that with any of our state parks before. And so many people came together--volunteers, local contractors, people came to the table with money, of course. And that's generally the governor, you know, our agency, and we really pulled it off and it was something we were very proud of.
And then we saw rains that this area probably hasn't seen maybe in 50 or 100 years. So not only did we have pretty major destruction at the Fishers Peak public area, but a lot of the internal roads that we use for park management across the property were torn up, and in some cases not passable for our day-to-day operations.
On the trail to the top of Fishers Peak:
Yeah. That is going to be a game-changer, not only for the park, but I think for the state. It's going to be for anybody who comes here. It's going to be such an interesting and unique experience. And so we are due to break ground, if everything goes well, we're on track to break ground on that whole project early next year.
So this spring, once the snow melts, we're anticipating that construction will last a couple of years. If everything goes well, hopefully sometime in 2024, we'll have not only the trail to the peak, but in its entirety, our plans call for 20 -25 additional miles of trail out there.
More on Fishers Peak State Park and the (now) newest state park:
On the park's impact on Southern Colorado and the Trinidad area:
For sure. That has been part of the conversation from the beginning, of course, with the city of Trinidad being one of our founding partners, so to speak. But it's hard to say without knowing what the final build-out of Fishers Peak State park will be prior to the approval of the master plan.
There have been outside groups who have tried to sort of figure what the potential economic benefit to the Trinidad area might be ..and that number is ballparked around $4 million per year.
But again, that's without any of us really knowing what the final build-out will be. And so I am confident that we'll have a better number once we have a final master plan for the property.
Answers edited for time and clarity.
Attend the upcoming public meeting on the Fishers Peak master planning process:
- Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021
- 5 - 7 p.m.
- Trinidad Community Center — 1309 Beshoar Ave., Trinidad, CO, 81082
- Masks required
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