Imagining Fishers Peak – A Monthly Journal – Issue IV

With the ‘Sneak Peek’ opening achieved, next we invite the public to get involved in planning the rest of the park.
Ribbon Cutting
Gov. Jared Polis uses large scissors to cut ribbon on Fishers Peak State Park on Oct. 30, 2020, flanked by Senate President Leroy Garcia and Rep. Daneya Esgar, both of Pueblo, and other dignitaries. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife / Bill Vogrin
Crystal Dreiling
Park Manager Crystal Dreiling stands with the iconic Fishers Peak in the background.

Wow! Who knew a “Sneak Peak” could be so exhausting?

But there’s no time to rest because we have so much exciting stuff coming at Fishers Peak State Park. And that includes you, the public.

When Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced the purchase of Fishers Peak and the plan to turn it into our 42nd state park, we promised to get the public on the property as soon as possible to hunt, hike and generally enjoy this special place. We also promised to include the public in the planning process and to be as transparent as possible in our progress.

Well, we kept our promise of access by 2021 with our “Sneak Peak” opening event on Oct. 30. It was a momentous day that included Gov. Jared Polis cutting ribbon on the park, buying the first park pass and hiking the first (very muddy) trail with a small group of local and statewide dignitaries, partners and news media.

A highlight of the day for me, personally, came when it was time to sell Gov. Polis that first park pass. I stood with him at our brand new, solar-powered kiosk that sells passes and talked him through the process. He seemed genuinely excited to purchase the new park’s first vehicle pass. Our governor has been a steadfast supporter of Fishers Peak State Park and for that I am so thankful. 

CPW Park Manager Crystal Dreiling discusses with Gov. Jared Polis the process of buying a park pass from a solar-powered kiosk in the parking lot of Fishers Peak State Park at the Sneak Peek opening event. Courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife / Bill Vogrin
CPW Park Manager Crystal Dreiling discusses with Gov. Jared Polis the process of buying a park pass from a solar-powered kiosk in the parking lot of Fishers Peak State Park at the Sneak Peek opening event. Courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife / Bill Vogrin

Another highlight for me came after the ceremony was over and the dignitaries left. It was time to officially swing the gates open to the public. I had no idea what to expect. 

To be honest, I was worried. The concept of a very limited opening at a new state park – roughly 250 acres and two miles of trails – is a new one for CPW. We truly didn’t know exactly how the public would receive this unique opportunity. 

But there we stood – I was joined by a handful of CPW staff and volunteers – on-site until sundown, answering questions and receiving feedback as waves of anxious visitors explored the beginnings of their new state park. 

Our opening-day visitors were mostly local folks – although we met some who had traveled from far and wide to see the new park. There was an air of festivity and celebration among the visitors, and I am happy to report that I have been very pleasantly surprised by the endless positive remarks from the public since that inaugural day.

 large display of information signs
Visitors to Fishers Peak State Park will find a large display of information signs and a solar-powered kiosk for purchasing passes in the parking lot. More signage designates the open trails and describe flora and fauna in the park. Courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife / Bill Vogrin

Of course, there have been a few concerns. A few visitors are frustrated that dogs are not permitted at this time. As a loving parent of four dogs, I get it. 

However, during our research, biological inventory and planning phases over the next few years, it is important that we do not bring dogs onto the landscape. Dogs are curious by nature, and a natural predator to many other species. Their presence on the property can influence the success of wildlife and their use of habitat on the property, negatively affecting our efforts to gather baseline data.

A couple others expressed concerns that bicycles are not permitted during this phase. While Fishers Peak State Park may someday be a draw for mountain bikers, with only two miles of trail available at this time, our Sneak Peek opening is not yet ready to host that particular activity.

Rest assured, the planning process will consider dogs and mountain bikers – along with many other types of users – for the coming phases of Fishers Peak State Park.

Speaking of the planning process, the next big opportunity to learn about this project, to ask questions and to be heard is coming: 

Save those dates! 

As for the coming weeks and months, I will continue to explore the beautiful and mysterious landscape that is Fishers Peak State Park with our planning firm, THK. 

For about a week each month, a small group from our planning team visits the property (observing COVID safety protocols!) to learn about the land and piece together draft visions of future state park amenities. For me, their visits tend to be the highlights of each month as they involve hiking many miles per day and discovering hidden treasures in the park.

massive Ponderosa pines
During a recent monthly exploration hike on Fishers Peak State Park, CPW staff and consultants discovered a stand of massive Ponderosa pines. Note how these trees dwarf Tony Boone of Timberline TrailCraft. They’ve also discovered large sandstone features, historic carvings on trees and rocks as well as previously undiscovered springs. Photo courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife / Kevin Shanks of THK Associates

For example, our planners recently happened upon a stand of some of the largest Ponderosa pine trees they have ever seen. The dense forests of the park also apparently hide many gigantic, awe-inspiring sandstone features. It seems that around every turn we find historic carvings in trees and rocks, precious springs, quiet meadows, beautiful plant fossils, colossal elk sheds, and countless signs of life from bears, bats, birds, lions and ungulates.

With so much focus on the 9,633-foot Fishers Peak icon, I am very happy to report that our new state park stands to offer many more unique experiences than just the landmark peak. We’ve only just scratched the surface and I can’t wait to tell you more in future columns.

Crystal taking a moment to relax and enjoy the new park
Fisher Peak State Park Manager Crystal Dreiling relaxes in the crook of a unique and massive pine tree discovered during a monthly exploration hike with park planners and consultants. Photo courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife / Kevin Shanks of THK Associates

Now it’s time for me to get back to work on your park. Thank you all for your continued support and enthusiasm for Colorado’s 42nd state park.

Written by Crystal Dreiling. Crystal Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Fishers Peak/Trinidad Lake Park Manager. Editor’s Note: This is a regular monthly column from Colorado Parks and Wildlife about the creation of Fishers Peak State Park near Trinidad by a career park manager. 

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