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Our Fight for Public Access with the Fix CRUS Coalition

Many people believe that all of the Colorado 14ers are public and protected, but that’s unfortunately not the case. At least six of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks are privately owned, while at least five more have significant private land holdings along the main route to climb them. This leaves public access at significant risk, based on the whims and perspective of land owners. 

In 2019, a federal court found the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs liable for $7.3 million after a bicyclist was injured on a washed out trail on their property. Because the Academy had known about the washout but had not closed the trail or put up warnings, they were found responsible for his catastrophic injuries.

The case had immediate impacts across the state as landowners realized they faced significant risks under Colorado’s recreational use statute (CRUS) as it exists today. After a bill died in Committee last spring to restore public access, the landowners felt they had no choice but to close access to these peaks to protect themselves from lawsuits.

Creating the Fix CRUS Coalition

In the immediate aftermath of the bill’s failure, several organizations met to chart a path forward. The Colorado Mountain Club, Boulder Climbing Community, and The Next Summit decided to form a coalition of partners to continue our advocacy. We were quickly joined by the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, local landowners, Park County, and Alpine Start to form our Executive Committee.

We conducted outreach over the next several months, reaching out to other outdoor recreation, conservation, landowner, and advocacy organizations to join the cause. We are proud to share that more than 40 organizations across the public, private, and non-profit sectors have joined our effort to strengthen protections for public access. 

Meet all of our 40+ members here.

Advocating for Public Access

With our coalition formed and growing, we launched our advocacy and education efforts to raise awareness about the closures and create an environment where we can pass policy change in 2024. We’ve gathered nearly 4,000 petition signatures, written more than 300 letters to state legislators, and secured coverage in more than a dozen local, state, and national news articles and publications.

The Next Summit is taking a lead role in our public advocacy and marketing efforts. We built the website and are providing hosting, email marketing services, and social media management. We’re also gathering supporters together for future action with our Facebook Grassroots Group, and collecting donations to support our campaign and ad strategy moving forward. 

This initiative is truly a collaborative effort: Thank you to all of our partners, members, and supporters for making this change posssible.

3 Ways to Support the Coalition

The Colorado Trial Lawyers Association strongly opposes our efforts, as they would reduce the opportunities available for successful lawsuits. In order to overcome their powerful lobbyists and influence, we need a broad base of support. Here are three ways you can support our work:

  1. Subscribe to our Coalition Newsletter to stay updated
  2. Give $14 to support and protect 14er public access and fuel our public campaign
  3. Take action by signing our petition and contacting your legislator to share your support for a stronger Colorado recreational use statute (CRUS).

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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