New 'VIP' state parks pass will raise funds for maintenance

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By AJ Vicens

State Sen. Mike Kopp, R-Littleton, has teamed with Rep. Spencer Swalm, R-Centennial, to sponsor a bill to create additional money to support state parks.

Kopp, who said that Swalm is the main engine behind the bill to be put forward in the upcoming legislative session, said the exact terminology has yet to be decided, but it will be a VIP pass, of sorts, that people can buy to access Colorado’s state parks. The pass won’t give those people special access or added benefits; rather, it will allow residents who want to donate to the parks to pay a little extra for the pass to help maintain the parks.

“A concern I have is, I don’t want to set up a (precedent) to raise user fees,” Kopp said. He explained that Great Outdoors Colorado gives funds to state parks from state lottery proceeds, but the parks department is required to spend that money on new capital-oriented items, and not for routine maintenance. The new pass would provide maintenance funds.

Legislation to create the pass was unveiled last week as part of the state GOP’s plan to address environmental and renewable energy issues. Kopp said the party’s conservation-oriented message has been kind of “washed out” in recent times because the party has primarily been concerned with making it easier for people to do business with the state.

“We’ve been consistent (in seeking) a strong, vibrant business community in our state,” Kopp said. “It kind of muted our stance of environmental stewardship.”

He added that the legislation — which is part of a broader package of environmental legislation the party plans to pursue next year — is not a reaction to the Democratic Party’s ideas and work on environmental issues, but rather the GOP taking “a look in the mirror” and asking what it can do for the state’s environment. The park pass legislation is “an opt-in situation, not a mandate of any kind,” Kopp said, so there are “probably a great number of people who would enjoy investing at a greater level.”

Contact AJ Vicens at: aj@evergreenco.com.