State Park Land Visitors/Hikers Face New Fees

Colorado Sanctioned Outdoor Hubs  Setting User Records

Bob Volpe

Up until late last year, hikers have had a free ride when entering much of the state park lands.

That scenario has now changed.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) instituted the walk-in/ride-in fee at 16 state parks last year, including Barr Lake in the Front Range. It doubled that number this month including Castlewood Canyon, Golden Gate Canyon, Roxborough, Staunton and St. Vrain in the Front Range.

In a news release, CPW describes the move as an “equity issue,” because it involves spreading the cost of park maintenance to all who use the parks.

In 2020, visitation to state parks experienced a huge increase, partially due to the pandemic restrictions and guidelines that encouraged people to enjoy outdoor amenities.

Lathrop State Park Manager Stacey Koury said in a press release, “All outdoor recreation has a human impact, and the new pass will help disperse some of the costs. It won’t just be people in vehicles carrying the costs for everybody. Increased visitation and use have put a greater demand on our natural resources, services, and the facilities we provide to our visitors,”

In addition to the state park fees, hikers exploring Colorado’s designated state wildlife areas will be required to have hunting or fishing licenses as a result of a new policy. This will have a big impact on a local outdoor favorite, Dome Rock, located off Four Mile road, near the Mueller Park entrance.  Dome Rock is renowned for its famous herds of big horn sheep.

There are two reasons for the new policy. The management of state wildlife areas is funded through the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses for the purpose of conserving habitats and wildlife-related recreation. State law requires Colorado Parks and Wildlife to separate its funding sources for both wildlife areas and state parks, which are funded by park passes.

CPW spokesman Travis Duncan said, “We are seeing unprecedented use of our public spaces and our state wildlife areas that is affecting our wildlife in these areas, I don’t want to say I’m discouraging hiking, but I am encouraging folks to look up what the intended use of that property is.”

“This new rule change will help our agency begin to address some of the unintended uses we’re seeing at many of our State Wildlife Areas and State Trust Lands,” CPW director Dan Prenzlow said in a news release. “We have seen so much more non-wildlife related use of these properties that we need to bring it back to the intended use — conservation and protection of wildlife and their habitat.”

There are more than 350 state wildlife areas in Colorado.