With about three months left in 2023, a new annual state parks pass offered to Coloradans this year has already generated more than $33 million for Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).
With more people paying for a pass, News5Investigates wanted to know the impact it's having on state parks.
Starting in January, Coloradans were able to add the "Keep Colorado Wild" pass onto their vehicle registration. The pass is $29 for most people registering their cars. Coloradans with a "collector" vehicle plate, which only register every five years pay $145.
Coloradans with military plates are exempt from the fee, but can still get the pass. The cost of the new pass is a fraction of a typical annual state parks pass, which is about $80.
As of October 8th, Colorado Parks and Wildlife says the passes have generated $33,218,978 with 1,206,565 passes sold.
News5 discovered despite more than a million Coloradans buying the pass, visitation lagged to state parks in 2023 compared to peak season during the pandemic.
July in 2023 saw an increase of 5%, June saw a decline of about 4.5% compared to 2022 and August saw a decline of nearly 9.5%. Data received by News5 saw some incomplete numbers for other parks so those numbers could change as more final numbers are reported.
CPW Public Information Officer Bridget O'Rourke agreed to an on-camera interview with News5 but minutes later declined and said it would be too premature to talk about the numbers. O'Rourke said visitation numbers and sales of the pass were not correlated.
O'Rourke cited storms as a reason visitation declined during peak season and that more indoor activities were available to people in 2023 compared to previous summers with the pandemic.
CPW has generated millions from the pass. Data provided by O'Rourke shows by the end of June this year, CPW had received more than $22 million from the new pass.
During a phone call, O'Rourke maintained people don't necessarily buy the pass to visit the parks and said some people buy the pass simply as a way to fund the parks.
CPW's goal in the first year of the pass is to collect $36 million, any additional revenue collected beyond that will go towards wildlife projects and outdoor education programs. Here's how CPW plans to use the $36 million.
- $32.5 million, which CPW has already collected would go towards park maintenance and development.
- $2.5 million would go towards search and rescue teams
- $1 million would go to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center
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