Could Gunnison get a state park?

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County leaders look into CPW process

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  • Land surrounding W Mountain outside the City of Gunnison is being eyed for a potential new state park.
    Land surrounding W Mountain outside the City of Gunnison is being eyed for a potential new state park.

Gunnison County leaders are eyeing a potential state park on lands in and around W Mountain.

The Gunnison County Commissioners on Tuesday discussed the potential of a state park outside the City of Gunnison.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) this year launched a campaign encouraging Colorado communities to nominate areas suitable for new state parks. CPW is inviting the public to nominate a location that could serve as a unique addition to Colorado’s existing 42 parks.

“The only state park in Gunnison County, as large as the county is, is Paonia Reservoir State Park,” Commissioner Jonathan Houck said.

The criteria for a future state park include whether it would provide outstanding naturebase recreation, conservation of natural resources and add to community value. The proposed park also has to be financially sustainable.

Commissioner Houck said the concept had been discussed prior to the rollout of CPW’s nomination program.

The location pursued by the county includes the lands surrounding W Mountain. That land is owned by both Gunnison County and the state.

Interested communities must complete a nomination form that identifies a birds-eye view of the envisioned park and its benefits.

“We think this is an opportunity that would serve our community well, it would serve guests well and would serve the state well,” Houck said. “Gunnison area is a basecamp for recreational opportunities and we’ve been seeing the impacts.”

Houck said the intersection of archeological sites in the area, potential for recreation amenities and conservation could make for a unique proposal.

The neighboring observatory near Hartman Rocks as well as live music at the I-Bar on the east side of the City of Gunnison offer opportunities other communities don’t have, Houck said.

“The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is not keen on a lot of access near airports,” said County Manager Matthew Birnie. “We also have existing leases with ranchers on that, and I would urge that whatever we do we always have agriculture on that property because it’s the only way to manage that property well.”

Commissioners Liz Smith and Roland Mason both said they support pursuing the potential for a park.

“I think it would be a benefit economically, as well,” Mason said.

Commissioners agreed to begin the exploratory process and nomination for the proposed state park.

(Kate Gienapp can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or kate@gunnisontimes.com.)