Roxborough State Park in Douglas County, Colorado, is popular with hikers. (Mark Harden, The Colorado Sun)

If you traveled to one of Colorado’s 41 (almost 42) state parks this past year, you may be onto something. In 2020, more than 18.3 million visited Colorado state parks, breaking records. 

Colorado state parks are beautiful places where many of us go to get some respite from the bustle (or from the couch, during quarantine). They remind us about the things worth living for: open scenery, fresh air, vibrant wildlife and a connection to nature. And for those of us working at home from a desk or a couch, they’re a place to stave off cabin fever and lower back pain.

Upon visiting the parks, however, you may have been too busy looking at the scenery to notice there are no electric vehicle chargers, which likely means everyone out enjoying nature had to use polluting fossil fuels to get there. 

Hannah Collazo

It’s time to change that: we need to be able to recharge where we recharge.

With transportation emissions now the top polluting sector of our economy, the switch to electric vehicles (EVs) is critical to protecting public health and the environment from global warming pollution.

The state has recognized how critical transforming transportation is to fighting climate change and aims to get 940,000 EVs on the road by the end of the decade. So far, however, the state is falling behind when it comes to building the charging infrastructure necessary to support widespread adoption of electric vehicles.

With over 1 million electric cars on America’s roads today, the market for EVs is charged up and already growing fast. Senate Bill 167 was signed into law last year, and now Rivian, a new adventure-EV company, is preparing to make its entrance on the market in Colorado soon.

Between 2017 and 2019, the number of electric vehicles on the road in Colorado more than doubled from over 11,000 to over 24,000. In fact, there are more than 40 types of plug-in electric vehicles today.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Overall, we should have fewer cars on the road and invest in smart, multimodal transportation options. However, when we need to travel by car, those trips should be powered by clean, renewable electricity.

Almost immediately after the pandemic started, we saw surges in attendees on our public lands — and for good reason. According to a study from The Frontier Group, nearly 875,000 people visited Colorado’s state parks in March 2020 alone – a 40% increase over March 2019. In April 2020, that number rose to over a million.

The outdoors are important for Coloradans for so many reasons, and I often go to recharge my physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental health. But we also know that when we all head to our favorite places, most of us will be using our gas-powered cars to get there.

Colorado’s coffers are emptier than usual because of COVID-19. That’s why private companies should step up and sponsor EV chargers in our state parks. Already, BMW of North America donated 100 electric car chargers to the national parks between 2017 and 2019.

Parks are one of the few places beside your home or workplace that you’d be busy for a few hours — an ideal amount of time to get a charge and continue on your merry way. It just makes sense to charge at your destination. 

That is why we are calling for an EV charger in every state park. It just makes sense.

Hannah Collazo is the state director of Environment Colorado, an advocacy group focused on protecting our land, water and open spaces.

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