For generations, the 9,633-foot-high Fisher’s Peak has been a big part of both the physical and social landscape for people in Trinidad and other parts of southern Colorado. But it has been off-limits because it was on a large private ranch.
Now, the landmark that could be seen but not publicly accessed is expected to become the centerpiece of Colorado’s 42nd state park. Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order Thursday to put a plan in motion to make the 19,200-acre Crazy French Ranch open to hiking, biking, hunting and fishing.
The order, which the governor announced in Trinidad, calls for transforming the site that includes grasslands, forests and volcanic cliffs by January 2021. Polis said in an interview Wednesday that he would like to see the area opened to the public by fall 2020.
“This is really big, not only for Trinidad but for the whole region and, quite frankly, all of Colorado,” Polis said.
Making public what has long been treasured by area residents grew from a partnership built by the city of Trinidad, The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Lands and state officials. The site had been on the conservation organizations’ radar, but the vision to turn the land into a public asset became more focused when Trinidad city leaders contacted them in November 2017 about acquiring the land.
In December 2018, The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land signed an agreement with the ranch owner, French Trinidad Co. LLC. Great Outdoors Colorado said it would contribute $7.5 million and Colorado Parks and Wildlife pledged $7 million toward the $25.4 million purchase price.
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Dan Gibbs, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said the financial details are being finalized.
Federal funds and private donations are also being sought, said Matt Moorhead, The Nature Conservancy’s director of business development and strategic partnerships.
“We’ve been confident that by attracting the right kind of partners, funders and donors, we could get it over the finish line,” Moorhead said. “What the governor’s announcement is going to do is give us and the partners a much stronger case.”