Recently unveiled plans paint a clearer picture of what outdoor enthusiasts can expect from Fishers Peak State Park, Colorado's second-largest state park that opened to a limited extent last year.
For those forever awaiting access to the previously private, iconic mesa looming over Trinidad, perhaps most exciting from the unveiling were maps marking the "Trail to the Peak System." From trailhead to rocky top, an out-and-back journey is expected to cover 16 miles, said Kevin Shanks, representing landscape architects with THK Associates. He said trail construction could start next year and take up to two years to finish.
With camping available along the way, Shanks suggested Trail to the Peak would showcase the signature experience of the park spanning about 19,200 acres.
"This park will be very much a wilderness, backcountry experience, which is different than most of the other state parks," Shanks said.
He said corridors have been identified for trail loops of shorter and more moderate lengths — a variety visiting points of interest such as rock outcrops, big meadows, mixed forests and scenic vistas. Along with backcountry campsites, areas for campgrounds have been pinpointed, as has a spot for cabins. A mountain bike skills course is proposed. Trails are expected to serve cyclists, hikers and equestrians.
But maps showed a majority of the park within a "preservation zone," as Shanks put it — a zone for little to no development. The designation stretches from the south end of the park, where elk and deer hunters have typically staged. From the north side, where a visitor center is also anticipated, most trail corridors run east and west.
"One of the things that came out of every working group, all the surveys, every interest group, all the public meetings is that we want to preserve the natural environment," Shanks said. "And so there is quite a bit of preservation zone in this park."
Seasonal closures for wildlife — lasting March 15 through the end of July — have been marked along some proposed trail corridors, including before the highest reaches of Fishers Peak. Nesting raptors have been found along the uppermost cliffs.
Calving grounds and habitat for the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse must be considered as well, said Bill Mangle, of the natural resources consulting firm ERO. He remarked on the "scale and ruggedness" of the park that also influenced access and management.
"It's vast, it's rugged, it's wild, but it's not pristine," he said, noting at least 90 miles of dirt road carved during ranching and logging days.
How much of that mileage to keep and how much to revegetate has yet to be decided, Shanks said. Also uncertain is the timeline of development beyond Trail to the Peak.
Mentioning other state parks formed in this century, Shanks said "a decade or more before you really get to that fuller picture is not uncommon."