Wildlife officer’s event copied across state

Frank McGee, an officer with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, fishes with his 4-year-old daughter, Bridget, during Outdoor Heritage Day on Saturday afternoon at Riverbend Park in Palisade. One thousand fishing poles were given away at the free event, aimed at getting families outdoors.

Frank McGee managed to wrangle together a dozen or so sponsors, a few activities and as many giveaways three years ago for his hastily organized event in Palisade’s Riverbend Park.

McGee, a Colorado Division of Wildlife officer responsible for the Palisade area, now advises other communities and groups across Colorado interested in copying his work.

Just over one hour into Saturday’s third annual Outdoor Heritage Day, turnout was approaching last year’s full-day attendance total of 1,500 people.

Freshly stocked rainbow trout in two ponds in Riverbend Park were snapped up by children, many of them casting for the first time with fishing poles given away by the Division of Wildlife.

The DOW gave away 700 of the kid-friendly poles during Outdoor Heritage Day last year, and they brought 1,000 on Saturday, according to DOW spokesman Randy Hampton.

Everything was free of charge Saturday.

Most of the event’s 43 sponsors had a booth presence, giving away items, promoting causes or their business.

“Frank has been adamant about (keeping the event free) with everyone involved, and in the presentations he’s given to others about this,” Hampton said.

A similar event is planned June 12 in Delta’s Confluence Park, and Hampton said wildlife officials in Steamboat Springs are planning their version of McGee’s idea in late summer.

McGee, 29, said Outdoor Heritage Day was aimed at getting families, particularly children, outdoors as technology increasingly competes for everyone’s time.

“Nobody in my middle school had a cell phone,” McGee said. “If kids are spending less time outdoors, they’re less likely to care about it.”


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