For the last 23 years, federal land management agencies, conservationists, volunteers, and outdoor enthusiasts have come together on the last Saturday of September to celebrate National Public Lands Day (NPLD). The annual holiday is characteristically observed with nationwide volunteer trail and restoration workdays, organized recreational opportunities, and free admission into all of the National Parks. Here at RMFI we like to think that our local friends and volunteers associate National Public Lands Day with the weekend-long camping, trail work, and volunteer appreciation projects that our organization has been hosting every year since the holiday’s 1994 inception! Historically, these RMFI events took place at Shelf Road Recreation Area, the popular rock climbing area just north of Cañon City. In 2016, we ran our celebratory work weekend on the top of Cheyenne Mountain and continued our work to construct the highly-anticipated Dixon Connector Trail (click here for more information on that exciting project!). This year, we are thrilled to be hosting not only a September National Public Lands Day special event (info on that coming later in the season) but also a special event to celebrate the very first Colorado Public Lands Day.
In an exciting announcement made last year, Colorado became the first state in the nation to officially designate our very own state holiday to recognize the public lands unique to our piece of the country. The Colorado General Assembly passed a bill during the 2016 legislative session establishing Colorado Public Lands Day as the third Saturday of May, effective this year. The inaugural celebration will take place on Saturday, May 20th, 2017.
Currently, more than 35% of Colorado’s land area is comprised of public land. These parks, open spaces, and recreational areas that lie within the rectangular border of our state contribute $34 billion in consumer spending to our economy according to the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Outdoor enthusiasts in Colorado enjoy unparalleled access to an incredible array of recreational opportunities on landscapes that thrill, rejuvenate, inspire, and contribute immensely to quality of life. There is no question that we as a state have a lot to celebrate when it comes to public land access. In a time of increasing national controversy over public lands, we also have an opportunity to unite as a state in support of our treasured natural landscapes, get involved in the conservation and stewardship of them, highlight the benefits that public lands make to the economy, environment, and public health, and set an example for all other states to potentially designate their own state Public Lands Day.
Numerous public lands celebration events will take place across Colorado on May 20th. We encourage residents from all parts of the state to learn more about this exciting new holiday and find ways to get involved by visiting the brand new official website of Colorado Public Lands Day: www.copubliclandsday.com. So what is RMFI cooking up here in the Pikes Peak Region? We are proud to be teaming up with the Friends of Red Rock Canyon, UpaDowna, Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates, and the City of Colorado Springs, Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services Department to host a day of service and fun in Red Rock Canyon Open Space, a public open space near and dear to many a hiker, biker, climber, and nature lover in the Pikes Peak Region. The event will take place on May 20th from approximately 8:00am to 2:30pm and include a stewardship project focused on trail finishing work on the multi-use White Acres Trail followed by lunch and a variety of recreational opportunities including guided interpretive hikes, and more. An after party will be hosted at nearby Fossil Craft Beer Company (2845 Ore Mill Road, Suite 1) and include prize drawings from host organizations and other event sponsors. The minimum age for the service project is 16, or 13 if accompanied by a parent or guardian volunteer, and pre-registration is required for planning purposes. Find more information and sign up at THIS LINK. After you’re done doing that, go ahead and pencil us in for the third Saturday of May every year moving forward. We are looking forward to celebrating Colorado Public Lands Day in this inaugural year and for many, many more to come.