Colo. parks mull opening up for oil, gas drilling

DENVER — Colorado’s state parks may be tapped for oil and gas extraction if other strategies to replace dwindling state funding don’t work.

That’s one of the suggestions in a five-year proposal to cut costs and keep the parks running and would be considered only if other measures don’t work. State Parks has already dumped 12 full-time jobs, trimmed salaries and raised fees for camping, reservations and boat registration.

Other suggestions are removing four parks from the 42-park system and expanding cost-sharing arrangements with other agencies and private groups.

“We’re just like any other entity,” said State Parks spokeswoman Deb Frazier. “We are looking at other ways to help with our income.”

Although visits to state parks are on the rise, reaching 12 million in 2009, state funding to the park system has been steadily shrinking. In 2009, State Parks got $6.7 million in general funds, while this year the contribution dropped to $2.6 million. Next year, it’s likely State Parks will get nothing, according to a draft five-year financial plan recently provided to the Colorado State Parks Board.

The agency’s contemplation of oil and gas drilling was first reported in the Fort Collins Coloradoan. The board is likely to take up the issue again in January, Frazier said.

State Parks owns about 22 percent of the 225,260 acres it manages and, because of a split estate, owns very few of the mineral rights under the land. Other state and federal agencies own the rest of the land.



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