Colorado Senate hopeful John Hickenlooper talks public lands at Frisco roundtable
FRISCO — Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper stopped by Frisco on Monday morning to participate in a roundtable discussion with members of the public, hoping to touch base with area stakeholders and discuss the rollout of his agenda ahead of November’s senate race.
Hickenlooper, who served as Colorado’s governor from 2011-2019, has kept busy since leaving office, including diving into a now defunct presidential campaign — what he called a bucket-list item for himself — before returning home to throw his hat into the ring of Democratic candidates hoping to take on incumbent Republican Cory Gardner in the 2020 Senate election.
On Monday, Hickenlooper’s team gathered alongside community leaders at the EVO3 Workspace on Main Street in Frisco — including former Breckenridge Mayor John Warner, Colorado Rep. Julie McCluskie and representatives of the Summit County Open Space Advisory Council, among others — to discuss wide-ranging topics in the realms of outdoor recreation, the protection of public lands and other key campaign policies announced last week.
During the conversation, Hickenlooper gave some casual opening remarks before shifting into questions and suggestions from participants in attendance.
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“I have been frustrated by Washington as a governor,” Hickenlooper said. “Again and again, you get frustrated by things that are obvious and should be bipartisan. … What we announced last week is the framework … some of the basic things that Washington should be doing, such as not just celebrating our public lands but making sure we have more access to it. In a place like Summit County, that is clearly precious.”
Hickenlooper emphasized a few priorities from his “COnservation Agenda,” a plan to maintain the state and country’s recreational amenities and natural resources, including continuing efforts to pass the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, expanding access to federal lands and establishing a National Recreation Office.
The CORE Act seeks to protect about 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado along with establishing new wilderness areas and designating Camp Hale as a National Historic Landscape, among other goals.
“The whole thing is so well thought out,” Hickenlooper said. “What’s amazing is every single county commissioner in every county in which there’s land that’s going to be dedicated or reallocated — Republicans and Democrats — all support it.”
In regards to expanding access to federal lands, Hickenlooper pointed to the “Colorado the Beautiful” initiative developed while he was governor, which created digital maps of the state’s recreational trails for easy exploring. In addition to considering the development of a federal counterpart to that initiative, he also voiced a desire to dedicate 3% of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to be used each year to create more accessible public lands.
Hickenlooper also expressed plans to establish a National Recreation Office, which he said could serve as a catalyst in creating conservation policies and promoting further outdoor recreation opportunities on federal land.
“How can we look at ways to expand and accelerate our embrace of outdoor recreation?” Hickenlooper asked. “Part of what I want to do in Washington is have a national office of outdoor recreation. We started one here in the state of Colorado. Now we have 15 (around the country). … Our goal is to have a nonpartisan lobbying organization for clear air, clean water and the conservation of public lands. … It could really accelerate and help empower outdoor recreation in every state.”
Hickenlooper then opened the conversation up to community members in attendance at the meeting, hoping to potentially take some of their suggestions back to Washington if he’s elected later this year. Among popular topics were expanding outdoor recreation opportunities to more people and less trafficked areas, and helping to better fund land-management efforts.
“One thing that is crucial is to refund the land management agencies in a way that recreation and conservation are on par with extraction and other uses,” said Laura Rossetter, a member of the county’s Open Space Advisory Council. “… In this district, a lot of the recreation improvements are done by volunteers … and that’s great, although I think the land management agencies have a lot to offer, and their knowledge we’ll never have. So we need to have their engagement.”
“We need to think progressively in terms of having a bus on the hour that goes to the different trailheads,” added Pete Swenson, Frisco Nordic Center and Trails Manager. “… What we can’t neglect is it shouldn’t just be the elites that can drive to these wonderful oases and trails. We need to connect America with the open space and with the trails. There’s a great opportunity there where everybody wins when communities have more jobs and more access to the outdoors. But don’t neglect getting people to the trailheads and to the outdoors.”
Hickenlooper will face off against other Democratic candidates during the state’s primary June 30. The general election will be held Nov. 3.
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