- Bob Falcone
The bill, co-sponsored by Democratic Sen. Stephen Fenberg and Republican Sen. Don Coram, is a simplified version of last year's "Parks and Wildlife Financial Sustainability" bill (HB17-1321) that failed to progress past the Senate Finance Committee, and will allow the CPW Commission to raise hunting and fishing license, park entry and other fees.
As a enterprise agency, CPW is funded solely by licenses and fees. Colorado resident hunting licenses haven't increased since 2005, and the last time park entry fees were raised was in 2010. Without an increase in funding, CPW has 50 fewer positions and cut $40 million from its wildlife budget. All the while, the number of state park visitors, costs for utilities, maintenance, and basic park amenities have continued to rise.
SB-143 will allow CPW to make strides towards its stated 2025 goals, which include planning for the next state park, an increase in hunting and fishing education, dam repairs, and hiring more staff.
Though the bill calls for an increase in fees, they will not be onerous. For example, the daily fee to enter a state park will go from $7 to $8 in 2019, and limited to increasing no more than $1 each year after that. Yearly passes will go from $70 to $80, and the requirement that they be permanently affixed to a vehicle will go away, giving annual pass holders more flexibility in using the pass with different vehicles.
CPW staff spent much of 2017 holding town hall meetings around the state, talking to hunters, anglers and parks users about the proposed legislation, and received overwhelming support. At the Feb. 13 hearing, 23 witnesses testified in favor of the bill (full disclosure, this writer was among those who testified) with none speaking against the bill. Most of the witnesses were representatives of hunting and fishing groups or outfitters who do business with CPW.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to schedule a vote on SB-143, though it is expected to retain bipartisan support.
Local trail closuresThe New Santa Fe Trail will be closed on the Air Force Academy where it crosses under the South Gate Road bridge on Friday, February 16th, and Monday, February 19th, during demolition of the bridge. It will be open during the weekend of the 17th and 18th.
And the Midland Trail will be closed from Beckers Lane to Columbia Road through the Fall of 2018 during road construction. Signed detours are in place.
Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for more than 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: email@example.com.