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Record visitation at Colorado state parks in 2020 spells 'high-use' fees

An addtional $1 fee is being added at five popular parks starting Jan. 1, 2021.

COLORADO, USA — Data confirms what the eye suggested at Colorado's state parks in 2020: unprecedented visitation.

Numbers were not yet finalized by the end of December, with counts still being logged from that month and some of November. But the 18.3 million visitors reported so far were up from the 14.8 million total in 2019 — a nearly 23% surge.

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The record 2020 tally is upwards of a 53% swell from the agency's 2013-14 fiscal year, when 11.9 million visitors were counted at the 41 state parks. (Guests of the 42nd state park that partly opened in October, Fishers Peak, were not represented in the latest spreadsheet provided to The Gazette).

The state-protected preserves followed a trend at open spaces and trailheads around Colorado and the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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The hordes came with "unprecedented challenges," said Bill Vogrin, Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman. 

That's why CPW starting Friday added an extra $1 "high-use" fee to day passes at Lake Pueblo, Castlewood Canyon, Roxborough, Golden Gate Canyon and Staunton state parks, among the most popular on the Front Range. The fee bumps "will help us add staff and mitigate the extra expenses and resource strain associated with extremely high visitation," Vogrin said. 

Those parks join Cherry Creek, Chatfield, Boyd Lake and Eldorado Canyon with existing "high-use" fees. 

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