Peninsula and Island at Colorado’s Lake San Cristobal Permanently Protected
The Trust for Public Land, in partnership with Friends of Lake San Cristobal and Hinsdale County, today announced the acquisition of a peninsula and island at Lake San Cristobal, Colorado’s second largest natural lake. Located in Hinsdale County near Lake City, the property, once opened to the public, will provide much-needed recreational access to the lake in one of the state’s most spectacular natural settings.
Located in the heart of the San Juan Mountains and with a year-round population of less than 900 people, Hinsdale County is considered one of the most remote places in the Lower 48, yet is a recreational destination for visitors from across Colorado and the country. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the county and lake are drawing an increasing number of visitors, putting a strain on existing outdoor recreation infrastructure and access points.
Key to the successful acquisition of the property was a community-driven, grassroots fundraising campaign that, in partnership with The Trust for Public Land and Friends of Lake San Cristobal, raised $200,000 in less than a month, which filled a funding gap between the $1.5 million purchase price and a $1.3 million grant from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO). Gifts to the campaign ranged from $10 to $60,000. Many of the donations were made through the Ben Brownlee Memorial Fund, named in honor of a young man who died tragically not far from Lake San Cristobal in a mountaineering accident on October 3rd. Ben Brownlee’s love of Colorado’s mountains will forever be remembered through this unique, public open space that will be enjoyed by generations to come.
“At the heart of the most successful conservation projects is community,” said Jim Petterson, Colorado and Southwest Region director for The Trust for Public Land. “The Hinsdale County community, from year-round residents in Lake City to second homeowners from around the country, really stepped up to make this acquisition happen. They responded to the urgency of this project, and the clear need to enhance access to Lake San Cristobal at a time when visitation is rapidly increasing as people seek respite in the great outdoors from pandemic-fueled stressors. ”
Despite Hinsdale County’s remote location, it is experiencing unprecedented growth in tourism as visitors flock to the outdoors. By permanently protecting this property, visitors will have increased access to the lake when the 10.33 acre Lake San Cristobal Island and Peninsula are open to the public, helping alleviate growing congestion on public lands. Following a community input process, Hinsdale County will now be able to complete an ADA-accessible pier on the newly protected northern harbor of the peninsula, so people of all physical abilities will be able to access the lake.
The Island provides unparalleled views of the lake and the surrounding San Juan mountains which serve as the backdrop of the lake. As the second largest natural lake in Colorado, Lake San Cristobal is the crown jewel of Hinsdale County and is beloved by its residents and visitors alike who access its waters for world-class fishing, water sports, and wildlife viewing.
Hinsdale County Commissioner Kristie Borchers believes that, “Lake San Cristobal is the very heart of Lake City and a spectacular attraction for those traveling the Alpine Loop and visiting Hinsdale County. It has been a pleasure to work with the team from The Trust For Public Land, Friends of Lake San Cristobal, the Ben Brownlee family, and all of our neighbors and friends. We did it!”
“Preservation of the island and creating public access are fantastic examples of community-driven land conservation and GOCO was proud to support Hinsdale County with a grant from our Community Resiliency Program,” said Chris Castilian, executive director of Great Outdoors Colorado.
The local community’s incredible generosity was integral to protecting this property. Hinsdale County’s 841 residents, in partnership with The Trust for Public Land, were able to raise over $200,000 to protect the property.
“We are so thankful for the outpouring of support from our community and those who hold Hinsdale County and Lake San Cristobal dear. We are grateful for every donation received through the Friends of Lake San Cristobal outreach. For those who took the time to speak with us, supported us, and championed this project, thank you!” Kate Hopson, Friends of Lake San Cristobal
The newly protected property will be owned and managed by Hinsdale County and will be open to the public later this spring after our community develops a project plan. Additional funding for this project came through a GOCO Resilient Communities Program grant, which is a special grant round that was designed to help communities address the impacts of Covid-19.
About The Trust for Public Land
The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.
About the Ben Brownlee Memorial Fund
The Ben Brownlee Memorial Fund was set up to properly equip and train the all-volunteer Hinsdale County Search & Rescue Team and needs of other first responders as well as to assist with funding the acquisition and improvements to the Lake San Cristobal Peninsula Park. All donations are being accepted through The Lake Fork Community Foundation which is a 501(c)3 private operating foundation based in Lake City, Colorado. For information: www.BenBrownleeMemorialFund.com
About Hinsdale County
Hinsdale County is a small and remote county in the central San Juan Mountains of Colorado. With the headwaters of the Rio Grande and the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River, 4 wildernesses and 2 wilderness study areas, and 96% public land, we are a county defined by pathways. The Silver Thread Scenic & Historic Byway and the Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway run through Hinsdale County. The historic Town of Lake City is the county seat.
About Friends of Lake San Cristobal
Friends of Lake San Cristobal is a local community volunteer group formed quickly to help close the private fundraising gap needed for the purchase of the property. Friends of Lake San Cristobal will continue to help support the project by providing marketing, design, and technical resources. To stay up to date on the latest happenings of the project visit lakesancristobal.com or facebook.com/lakesancristobal.
About Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO)
GOCO invests up to half of the lottery proceeds in land conservation, local government, wildlife and park projects around Colorado. This year we will grant over $72 million to partners for high-impact projects led by their communities.