The state parks program that puts backpacks with parks passes, binoculars, and guides into public libraries is in its second year. "Check Out State Parks" officially launched last year in more than 280 libraries statewide. This year, it's expanded to include many publicly funded college and university libraries.
At a time when funding for state parks is lagging, Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman Lauren Truitt says there is value in the free program.
"Although it doesn't generate immediate revenue," says Truitt, "what it does do is it generates immediate value to people. Really, that sense of place, that sense of pride, that this is Colorado."
Truitt says they've seen waitlists for the backpacks in some areas, primarily in those areas more densely populated.
"People want this opportunity," says Truitt. "To give people an opportunity to get out for free really gives them a sense of place and a sense of awe about what's really close to their houses, what's out there."
A survey last year showed that as a result of the program, 97% of respondents were likely to recommend a visit to a state park, and 77% likely to buy a day pass. Colorado Parks and Wildlife reports in the first six months of the program, they saw an average of 165 checkouts each week.
Participating libraries include locations in the Pikes Peak Library District, Pueblo City-County Library District, and the Las Animas-Bent County Library District. New locations this year include libraries at Adams State, Colorado State University-Pueblo, and Pikes Peak Community College.