SOUTHERN COLORADO — A bill to improve state parks in Colorado is getting a major slash in funding.
With concerns over aging facilities and continuous maintenance some are now asking what kind of impact will this have?
The bill originally asked for $10 million from the general fund, but it dropped to $6 million as it moved through the Senate. This means that there would be $4 million to be able to open the newest state park, Fishers Peak, and $2 million for improvements at other parks. It's a bit of a disappointment for sponsors of the bill.
"I kind of hated to see that big of a cut." That's State Senator Dennis Hisey's reaction to the funding cut. He said, "We had people that were concerned about $10 million going to parks when there were other needs that they found more pressing, in particular, roads and schools."
State Representative Daneya Esgar is another sponsor of the bill. She said, "The idea was to put this one-time infusion of general funds into really go across the state, make some big improvements, and kind of get ahead of the game."
But she shared that the budget is tighter than expected.
As a sponsor of the bill Hisey's concern: "You never want to be in a position where they say the scenery was great, but the facilities were terrible."
The Colorado Department of Natural Resources wasn't available to speak on-camera, but they did send us the following statement:
"Our 60 year old system accommodates over 15 million visitors each year...many of our facilities are aging and require continuous maintenance and improvement to keep up with this level of visitation...we will continue to prioritize utilizing our existing funds wisely and...pursuing additional innovative funding opportunities to address our state parks' long term and ongoing maintenance and improvement needs."
Esgar said, "It'll just take a little bit longer to accomplish everything that they want to do to make sure that our parks can accept all of the people that want to come visit them because right now there's some capacity issues."
Hisey shared that deciding what improvements to make will be left up to the discretion of the DNR. Those could include more picnic areas, removing and building new restrooms, and creating more camping sites.
The bill is now in the House. Esgar says she doesn't see the bill being in any danger, but that there is a chance more money could be cut by the end of negotiations. It's been referred to the House Appropriations Committee. We'll keep you posted on its progress.