Colorado is the first — and only — state in the country to dedicate a holiday to public lands, and the celebration begins Saturday.
Nestled between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, Colorado Public Lands Day is a chance to acknowledge the value of wild places and recreation in the state. Across Colorado, nonprofits and communities are hosting group adventures, volunteer projects and celebrations to mark the occasion.
State Sen. Kerry Donovan carried a bill to create this holiday last year. She said the day is also a time for reflection and important conversations.
“Not only is it a day to celebrate or inspire volunteerism, or just have an excuse to take your kids out hiking, it also becomes a day to discuss what public lands mean to you, and what the long-term future of what public lands should be in our communities and in our country,” she said.
Donovan admits that the day has become a political rallying cry for advocacy groups, as the Trump administration has called for the review of some national monument designations. But, she said, it was originally intended for community.
Locally, there are volunteer opportunities at the Carbondale Boat Ramp and Hubbard Mesa, northwest of Rifle. There is also a celebration at Ruedi Dam and a group hike at Grizzly Creek in Glenwood Springs.
Weather permitting, hundreds of cyclists will take advantage of clear roads and no traffic to ride up Independence Pass on Saturday for the 22nd annual Ride for the Pass.
The event raises money for restoration and other work in the area.
“After a long winter with the pass closed, it’s a great opportunity to remind people of the continuing work we do and have done for 28 years,” said Karin Teague, executive director of the Independence Pass Foundation.
Teague has big plans for this summer’s work. The foundation will partner with the U.S. Forest Service to install food storage boxes at some Lincoln Creek campgrounds that were closed for much of last summer because of bear activity. They will also tear out old fencing from a failed snow fence experiment, plant trees and do some work to restore a popular climbing spot.
The Ride for the Pass contributes about 15 percent of the foundation’s annual operating budget.