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Gov. Polis signs bills funding state parks, wildfire efforts, marijuana industry equity

$20 million is going toward improvements at a dozen state parks.

COLORADO, USA — Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed several bills into law Sunday benefiting state parks, wildfire response and diversity in the marijuana industry.

The first stop was Cherry Creek State Park on Sunday morning, where Polis signed legislation to invest $20 million into improvements at 12 state parks. 

According to a release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), the legislation will help direct funds to outdoor projects in Colorado that protect public lands and expand outdoor recreation opportunities in the state.   

CPW said state parks have seen "explosive" growth in visitor numbers as people look for outdoor and socially-distanced activities during the pandemic.

The funding will go toward park enhancements and expansions necessary to meet the needs of park visitors and upgrade infrastructure, CPW said, including new trails, service buildings, campgrounds and shooting bays. 

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

“Throughout the pandemic, we watched our Colorado community flock to our state parks in record numbers for solace and the mental and health benefits associated with spending time outdoors,” Polis said. “The increase in park visitation proves the importance of outdoor spaces to Coloradans, and our collective need to invest in preserving and improving our state park system so our human use does not overwhelm our state’s natural resources. This increased funding, which is part of Colorado’s bipartisan stimulus package, will provide additional access and recreational opportunities that connect people to the outdoors and protect the landscapes that make Colorado so spectacular.”

The funding will go toward capital construction projects at the following parks, according to CPW:

  • Boyd Lake State Park
  • Lake Pueblo State Park
  • Fishers Peak State Park
  • Cherry Creek State Park
  • Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area
  • Ridgway State Park
  • Steamboat Lake State Park
  • North Sterling State Park
  • Chatfield State Park
  • Jackson Lake State Park
  • Navajo State Park
  • Cameo Shooting and Education Complex

Later, at Centennial Airport, Polis signed two bills to help with wildfire response and management. 

SB21-113 provides $30.8 million to support the following purposes, according to the Colorado General Assembly's website:

  • The purchase of a Firehawk helicopter configured for wildfire mitigation
  • The leasing of a type 1 helicopter or other available and appropriate aviation resource configured for wildfire mitigation in advance of the 2021 wildfire season and for the operational costs associated with the leased and purchased aviation resources.

RELATED: Colorado looks to lease firefighting helicopter as part of legislation aimed at stopping wildfires before they grow

The bill also allows the Division of Fire Prevention and Control to use money from the Wildfire Emergency Preparedness Fund to provide wildfire suppression assistance to local agencies throughout the state.

SB21-054 steers $13 million toward forest restoration, wildfire risk mitigation, wildfire preparedness and post-fire recovery and mitigation efforts.

Finally, Polis stopped at the Simply Pure marijuana dispensary in Denver to sign SB21-111, a bill designed to help qualifying people get a leg up in Colorado's booming marijuana business.

The bill creates a program in the Office of Economic Development and International Trade to support marijuana industry entrepreneurs, primarily social equity licensees.

According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, the Marijuana Enforcement Division is trying to increase equity and diversity in the marijuana industry to make it more reflective of Colorado's demographics.

RELATED: A push for social equity in Denver marijuana industry

The bill is intended to provide the following, according to the state legislature's website:

  • Loans to social equity licensees for seed capital and ongoing business expenses
  • Grants to social equity licensees to support innovation and job creation and organizations that support marijuana businesses to be used to support innovation and job creation of social equity licensees
  • Technical assistance for marijuana business owners, prioritizing social equity licensees who have been awarded a loan or grant through the program.

The program will initially be funded with a $4 million transfer from the marijuana tax cash fund to the newly-created marijuana entrepreneur fund.


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