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Entry to state parks gets cheaper next year

New fee starts in 2023
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Anglers enjoy a morning of fishing at St. Vrain State Park


Will Shieh drove past St. Vrain State Park last year and saw a huge osprey with a giant fish in its mouth gliding over one of the park’s shimmering ponds. Shieh, an amateur photographer, knew then he was hooked.

“It was so eye-catching I had to come back and see more,” Shieh said. The Littleton resident now returns to St. Vrain Park at least twice a month to capture, with his camera, the long-winged ospreys in flight.

There are also eagles and pelicans that swoop down to grab bluegill, trout and northern pike from the park’s ponds. “It is really enjoyable to see all this,” said Shieh, an IT consultant. “It provides a good break for me.”

Shieh — who pays $80 annually for a Colorado state parks pass — will enjoy a huge cut in the cost of an annual parks pass starting next year. The state announced last week that Colorado residents can get a $29 Keep Colorado Wild Pass during their annual vehicle registration through the Division of Motor Vehicles. 

“I think it’s great,” Shieh said. “I will definitely take advantage of that. I think a lot of people will do as well.”

The Keep Colorado Wild Pass, according to a news release from the office of Gov. Jared Polis, is an annual state park pass that:

  • Provides entry to all Colorado state parks
  • Protects wildlife, lands and water
  • Supports search and rescue programs
  • Funds trails and local community projects
  • Helps make the outdoors safe and available to all

“Colorado is home to world-class state parks and cutting the price of a parks pass will save families money and ensure our treasured parks and public lands can be explored for generations to come,” Gov. Polis said in the news release. “Cutting the cost of an annual parks pass by over $50 will help Colorado families and individuals save money while helping expand access to our vast great outdoors.”

A bipartisan effort in the state legislature created the Keep Colorado Wild Annual Pass program, which was signed into law by Polis. Under Polis, Colorado has worked to create new state parks, with Fishers Peak in Trinidad opening over a year ago, the news release states. The Polis administration launched a partnership in the fall of 2021 to create Colorado’s’ 43rd State Park at Sweetwater Lake, the news release states.

Residents will be able to buy or decline the pass when registering a passenger vehicle, light truck, motorcycle and recreational vehicle starting in 2023. The pass is not transferable between vehicles and is linked to a specific license plate and registration card, the news release states.

Residents will have the clear option to decline the pass when registering a vehicle with the DMV online, through a kiosk or by notifying a customer service representative. To learn more, read the state’s Frequently Asked Questions.

“Coloradans that buy the $29 pass with their vehicle registration, show they care about our natural resources and are taking action to protect and enhance them for our current communities and future generations,” Dan Gibbs, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

The goal is to raise at least $36 million annually. The first $32.5 million will go to state park maintenance, the next $2.5 million will go to supporting the Colorado BackCountry Search and Rescue system and $1 million will support the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the news release states.

Formerly known as Barbour Ponds, St. Vrain State Park is located off of State Highway 119 just west of I-25 and exit 240. The park includes 604 acres of land and 152 acres of water split among several ponds. “It’s a great place for anglers, campers, photographers, birders, walkers and anyone who loves nature,” according to the park’s website.

The park also includes six or seven platforms for ospreys to rest and plan their next fish attack, Shieh said. A few yards away from Sheih, some families were slowly gliding out on the water in their boats looking for an early morning catch.

The park is a hidden jewel next to the bustle of highway concrete and traffic, Shieh said. “It’s pretty quiet here in the early morning,” he said. “You can catch your breath here for a few minutes.”