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Colorado’s newest state park set to debut

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This weekend’s grand opening at Staunton Park offers variety of activities

By Daniel Laverty

The mountain area's newest neighbor is settled in and ready to host its first open house.

After several delays, Staunton State Park will open to the public this weekend with a two-day grand opening packed with events and activities.

“This has been a long time coming, and I’m excited to share this amazing park with others,” said park manager Jennifer Anderson.

Originally set to open in October 2012, the 3,800-acre state park had issues with weather and construction. Staunton, located north of Shaffers Crossing, will become Colorado’s 43rd state park when it opens Saturday.

“I’m guessing we’ll get maybe a couple thousand people each day (Saturday and Sunday),” Anderson said.

The park will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday; starting May 20, summer hours will be from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.

The opening-weekend events are free to attend, and Anderson said parking could be an issue; however, free parking is available at Elk Creek Elementary and the Mountain View Park-n-Ride. Free shuttles will transport visitors to and from the park from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.

A host of activities

Opening-weekend visitors will have a chance to learn about Staunton’s history, vegetation and wildlife. Anderson said the Live Raptor Program (10 to 11 a.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to noon Sunday) gives people a chance to get close to a red-tailed hawk.

“We’ll have two live raptors,” she said. “You’ll learn how they eat and live. You’ll get at chance to see something you may have never seen before.”

Multiple guided hikes will be offered each day, and spots can be reserved by e-mailing staunton.park@state.co.us.

Many of the activities will be offered all day on both Saturday and Sunday, including fishing, a kids craft station, and briefings on trail etiquette and safety.

“I wouldn’t miss the fishing ponds,” Anderson said. “We’ve stocked the ponds with large rainbow trout for the weekend.”

Anderson said some fishing poles will be available for visitors to use, but that anglers can also bring their own gear.

“We tried to offer a sampling of events that will let people know about what they might experience at Staunton,” Anderson said.

No food vendors will be available, but guests are invited to bring a picnic lunch. Anderson said the picnic area will be open and that some grills will be available for use.

Staunton Rocks will be open for climbing, and the park is also home to Elk Creek Falls, a waterfall that drops nearly 100 feet.

“It’s so exciting to be this close to the opening,” said Susan Festag, secretary-treasurer of the Friends of Staunton State Park. “It’s also a bit scary, wondering if we’ve done everything that needed to get done. But it’s going to be a lot of fun. It was a lot of hard work, but it was worth it.”

Friends of Staunton State Park will have an informational table during the opening weekend, and volunteers will be stationed throughout the park to answer questions. The group received nonprofit status from the IRS last week.

Fire district makes preparations

Elk Creek Fire Chief Bill McLaughlin said his crews have been working hard to prepare for the park’s opening.

“We have gone into the park several times and practiced high-angle rescue on the climbing routes,” McLaughlin said. “Our personnel are ready for dealing with potential accidents.”

McLaughlin said the district recently purchased a Polaris Ranger UTV (utility terrain vehicle).

“(The UTV) will let us get on most of the park’s trails, and it has firefighting and rescue capabilities,” he said.

The UTV is equipped with a pump and a 70-gallon water tank and can transport an injured person on a connected stretcher.

The opening weekend marks the completion of phase one of Staunton’s construction. Future phases include building campgrounds, cabins and possibly an environmental education center.

The last state park to open was in 2006, when the 2,717-acre Cheyenne Mountain State Park opened in Colorado Springs.

Contact Daniel Laverty at Daniel@evergreenco.comor at 303-350-1043. Follow him on Twitter at @LavertyReports.

Opening weekend schedule

Saturday, May 18

Pond Exploration – 9 to 11 a.m.

Fishing Demo – 9 a.m. to noon

Live Raptor Program – 10 to 11 a.m.

Wildflower Discovery – 10 to 11 a.m. **

Kids Climbing Wall – 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Uncovering History – 10:30 a.m. to noon **

Face Painting – 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Tree Discovery – 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. **

Time Travel Music – 1 to 3 p.m.

Wildflower Discovery – 2 to 3 p.m. **

Sunday, May 19

Pond Exploration – 9 to 11 a.m.

Kids Mountain Bike Course – 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Fly-fishing Demo – 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Uncovering History – 10:30 a.m. to noon**

Live Raptor Program – 11 a.m. to noon

Wildflower Discovery – 11 a.m. to noon **

Face Painting – noon to 3 p.m.

Tree Discovery – 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.**

Time Travel Music – 1 to 3 p.m.

Wildflower Discovery – 2 to 3 p.m.**

Fly-fishing Demo – 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Note: All activities are free. Events with “**” are guided hikes with limited space available; spots can be reserved by e-mailing staunton.park@state.co.us.

Parking is available at Elk Creek Elementary, 13304 U.S. Highway 285, and RTD’s Mountain View Park-n-Ride, 11770 U.S. Highway 285. Free shuttles will take visitors to and from the park and will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both days. Disabled-accessible parking is available in the park.

Although dogs on leashes and bicycles are permitted in the park, the shuttles cannot take bikes or dogs this weekend.

Directions from Conifer: Take U.S. 285 south to Shaffers Crossing. Turn north on Elk Creek Road and follow signs 1.5 miles to the park entrance.

Staunton State Park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The park’s summer hours will be from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day starting May 20.