Please watch for more COVID-19 operational updates from us later today. In the meantime, we want to share this great news from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO).
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 3/11/2020
Rosemary Dempsey, 303-226-4530,
Estes Park nets $395K in GOCO grants for Thumb Open Space, Big Thompson recreation area
DENVER - Today the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board awarded two grants totaling $395,000 to projects in Estes Park. The Town of Estes Park, in partnership with Estes Valley Land Trust (EVLT), received a $350,000
Local Park and Outdoor Recreation (LPOR)
grant to purchase a 65-acre property and create a public open space. The Town also received a $45,000
grant to enhance the Big Thompson River recreation area.
With its LPOR grant, the Town will acquire the 65-acre section of land and create Thumb Open Space. The property features two large rock outcroppings called "Thumb" and "Needle" that have been popular among climbers and hikers for years, but private ownership has hindered public access. GOCO funding will assist with the purchase of the property and the development of a publicly accessible open space, preventing future development there.
Although the property has always been privately owned, hikers and climbers have been exploring the rocks since the 1940s. The Thumb and Needle are especially popular among beginner climbers; Tommy Caldwell, an Estes Park local and professional climber, recalls learning to climb there as a child.
"The Thumb and Needle are iconic natural features in our community," said Travis Machalek, town administrator for the Town of Estes Park. "Establishment of Thumb Open Space will create and ensure public access to this property so that current and future generations can enjoy the scenic beauty, hiking, and climbing opportunities that it offers."
Purchasing the property will also better protect its scenic and wildlife habitat values.
"The Thumb Open Space property is highly visible from the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway," said Jeffrey Boring, executive director of EVLT. "Purchase by the Town will enable the land trust to amend the existing conservation easements and prohibit the development of any structures. Even a single home, driveway, and utilities would have fundamentally changed the character of the steep, rocky mountainside; now that won't be possible."
Once the purchase is finalized, the Town and community will develop a management plan to protect the scenic, wildlife, and recreation values of the property. Restrictions such as seasonal closures or access limitations will be developed as needed to preserve sensitive natural resources.
Access will be limited until the management plan is complete. A grand opening is slated for fall 2021.
Separately, the Town received a Mini LPOR grant to make improvements to the Big Thompson River recreation and picnic area to better accommodate its residents and nearly four million annual visitors. Currently, several amenities there are in a state of disrepair. The project includes the addition of a shelter, new picnic tables, a concrete path to improve ADA accessibility, an irrigation system, and landscaping.
The recreation area is a staging point for local hiking clubs, cross country meets, and Rocky Mountain National Park visitors and campers. Project enhancements will serve a variety of user groups, provide an enhanced wildlife viewing area, facilitate outdoor education programming, and support the town's commitment to "placemaking."
To assist with the landscaping, irrigation, and maintenance work, the town will employ youth seasonal workers. Additional youth from the local Builders Club will assist with assembling the area's new picnic tables. The Parks Division will work closely with the town's ADA coordinator to ensure the area's design offers adequate access to visitors of all ages and abilities.
Construction in the area is slated to begin in August with completion in spring 2021.
To date, GOCO has invested more than $57 million in projects in Larimer County and conserved more than 64,000 acres of land there. GOCO funding has supported River Bluffs Open Space, Fish Creek Trail, Lory State Park, and Horsetooth Mountain Open Space, among other projects.
Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO)
invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state's parks, trails, wildlife, rivers, and open spaces. GOCO's independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts, and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created when voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 5,200 projects in all 64 counties of Colorado without any tax dollar support. Visit
for more information.