Courtesy of The Nature Conservancy/Lauryn Wachs
Crazy French Ranch, which contains Fisher's Peak, is a 30-square-mile area south of Trinidad.
Just east of Interstate 25, a few miles north of the New Mexico border, 9,600-foot-tall Fisher's Peak is a hidden gem in plain sight.
The Trinidad landmark has long been closed to the public. But thanks to a land purchase completed Feb. 28, the peak and the ranch it sits on will open for as-yet-undefined public use within a few years.
The Nature Conservancy
and the Trust for Public Land
, two nonprofit organizations focused on conservation and land access, bought Crazy French Ranch and will spend the next two years or so working with the city of Trinidad, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Great Outdoors Colorado, and Trinidad State Junior College to develop a management plan for the peak-containing property. That could include opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and education, says Matthew Moorhead, director of business development and strategic partnerships for The Nature Conservancy.
"We can make sure that this is a well-managed, a properly-managed natural area that protects everything living there that makes it special," Moorhead says. "At the very same time ... we’re able to provide for the kind of public recreational access that’s going to bring a cultural and economic and educational value to the citizens of Trinidad, Las Animas County and Colorado."
Great Outdoors Colorado — which invests a portion of state lottery proceeds into state parks, trails, wildlife, rivers and open spaces — has awarded a $7.5 million grant for the Fisher's Peak Project, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife has pledged an additional $7 million.
After the management plan and financing is in place, the two nonprofits will turn over the property to a local or state entity, such as Colorado Parks and Wildlife or the city of Trinidad, Moorhead says.
The project could have widespread appeal to Coloradans who might not otherwise visit Trinidad. Colorado College's 2019 State of the Rockies poll
showed 90 percent of Coloradans believe the outdoor recreation economy is important to the future of their state and the Western U.S. And the town doesn't have other recreation opportunities nearby that compare with what Fisher's Peak offers, Moorhead says.
In fact, he adds, the only way the public can currently access the state land adjacent to Fisher's Peak is by first crossing into New Mexico and undertaking a difficult hike.
“The ranch embodies the amazing history of this area, we look forward to conserving that for future generations,” Trinidad Mayor Phil Rico was quoted in a statement from The Nature Conservancy. “We are also excited about the economic opportunities that public lands and recreation can bring to our community.”