New programs hope to educate Colorado residents on Keep Colorado Wild annual pass

Waves crash against the shore at Stagecoach Reservoir. Starting in 2023, Colorado residents will be able to purchase the Keep Colorado Wild annual pass for $29 when registering their car. The pass will allowing access to 42 state parks including Stagecoach State Park.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

The Keep Colorado Wild annual pass program is not slated to begin until January 2023, but Colorado Parks and Wildlife will be rolling out a public outreach program this month, followed by educational programs aimed at keeping Coloradans in the loop.

“Our official educational campaign will launch July 1,” said Bridget Kochel, statewide public information officer for CPW. “We’re in the process of updating our website, and creating a campaign tool kit and developing public service announcements and marketing materials.”

Officials at CPW are doing this hoping to educate the public about the availability of the optional, lower-cost annual state parks pass.

Coloradans will be able to obtain the new pass, which will allow access to all Colorado’s state parks and recreation areas, when they register their cars starting in January 2023.

Kochel said CPW is currently working on a plan to address vehicle owners who will be required to purchase an annual pass — $80-$120 depending on the pass — before their car registration comes due. In a statement, Kochel said Colorado Parks and Wildlife is trying to determine the best way to refund this type of overlap, and a plan will be available soon with more information posted on once the July educational program begins.

Overall, Keep Colorado Wild will reshape the way state parks are funded, and the program is expected to increase access while helping conserve wildlife and the places that make Colorado so special.

The pass will cost $29, which is less than half the price of an annual vehicle parks pass, and will be limited to Colorado residents.

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CPW also offers a family annual pass, and Coloradans will need to opt-out of the payment when registering their vehicles if they don’t want to take part.

“It’s more than just access to state parks,” Kochel said. “It’s really money that’s going to be dedicated to our natural resources and funding trails and local community projects. We want people to feel that they’re a part of this Colorado-wide initiative, and we want everyone to feel that they can be a part of this, and that they’re protecting our resources by buying this pass.”

Revenue from the sale of the Keep Colorado Wild annual pass will be used to create more sustainable funding for the state parks, as well as pay for park maintenance projects, search and rescue, avalanche awareness, wildlife conservation and educational and equity programs.

“I think pretty much every state park in Colorado is expecting that we will see increased visitation because the passes will be more affordable,” said Julie Arington, Steamboat Lake park manager. “I think we will continue to see more visitation.”

She expects the new pass to bring more visitors and more challenges, but she also sees it as an opportunity to bring more people to the state parks — and some new people that the parks have not reached in the past.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity,” said Arington. “It’s a challenge for us to keep up with everything — more people means we have to have the dumpsters dumped more often, we have to clean the bathrooms more often, we need to spend money on cleaning supplies, and pay staff to be able to do all that stuff. It’s a strain on our budget — but at the same time, it’s also nice that people are enjoying what we’re providing.”

The Keep Colorado Wild Pass will allow Colorado residents to enter state parks. However, residents will be required to pay other fees — such as camping, hunting and fishing.

This week CPW announced that it will launch of a public outreach campaign to engage with Colorado residents, in particular disproportionately impacted communities.

To do this, CPW will host small focus groups around the state and accept submissions on an online comment form to understand the use and affordability of state parks for income-eligible residents. A forum is scheduled for the Bud Werner Library in Steamboat at noon July 14.

Kochel said CPW currently offers an annual pass for income-eligible Colorado residents. Kochel said the focus groups will provide more input on the final price of the reduced-cost passes.

“We just want to make sure that the people who say they just can’t afford $29, that there is some kind of a different alternative so that they’re still part of the movement and contributing to protecting our natural resources,” Kochel said. “But they’re doing it at a price that is comfortable with them.”

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