DENVER — Good news for outdoor enthusiasts: Starting next year, anyone who registers a personal vehicle at a Colorado DMV will automatically pay $29 for an annual state parks pass – unless they chose to opt out.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Commission on Wednesday passed the $29 price point, which is less than half the $84 price of a current annual pass that gives access to all 43 state parks.
Starting in 2023, the Keep Colorado Wild (KCW) Pass will be included when a person registers a passenger vehicle, light truck, motorcycle or recreational vehicle through the Division of Motor Vehicles. Those who aren't interested can decline to pay for the pass.
One pass does not apply to all vehicles registered at one address, meaning every vehicle a family wants to take to a state park has to be registered for a pass separately.
> Video above: Gov. Polis announces 43rd state park, Sweetwater Lake, aired Oct. 20, 2021.
The new pass saves people money from the current price and will increase funding for the state's natural resources, CPW said.
"Whether you plan to visit our state parks or not, your purchase of the Keep Colorado Wild Pass is a generous and simple way to show you care about our outdoors, wildlife, lands and waters that make up the heartbeat of Colorado – and support those that manage it," said CPW Director Dan Prenzlow in a news release.
Funds from the KCW Pass go to park maintenance, search and rescue programs, avalanche awareness, wildlife conservation, and education and equity programs, according to CPW.
Senate Bill 21-249 directed the creation of the pass and the automatic DMV fee no earlier than Jan. 1, 2023, and no later than Jan. 1, 2024.
For those who don't want the pass, here's the language in the Senate bill:
"A resident may decline to pay the wild pass fee when registering the resident's motor vehicle, and nonpayment of the wild pass fee does not affect the resident's ability to register the motor vehicle. A resident who declines or fails to pay the wild pass fee is presumed to decline to pay the wild pass fee in subsequent years with respect to registration of the same motor vehicle, and the division of parks and wildlife in the department of natural resources (division) is required to develop an opt-in provision on subsequent registration notifications sent to the resident for that motor vehicle."
The state parks system spans the entire state from the plains to the mountains, and it includes several parks within an hour drive of the Denver metro area.
The KCW Pass will not include national parks that are in Colorado, which are Rocky Mountain National Park, Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde and Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
In 2020, state park entrance fees, including the sale of daily and annual passes, generated $22 million, according to CPW. The KCW Pass would generate about the same amount if 15% of Colorado's 5 million-plus vehicle owners got the $29 pass at registration.
CPW acknowledges that it's likely the pass will increase visitation and operating costs at state parks.
“The pass is the single most impactful thing we can do as a state to protect our public lands while opening them up to more families from all different backgrounds and income levels and I look forward to seeing it fully implemented next year," said Senate President Steve Fenberg in a news release.
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