These days patrons can find everything from books to computers at their local library. In Colorado, they find even more. There, libraries have become gateways to exploring nature.
It’s possible through a program called “Check-Out State Parks.” The partnership between the Colorado State Library system and Parks and Wildlife department started with a pilot program in eight libraries in 2015. Patrons could check out a free seven-day pass for admission to any Colorado state park—along with an adventure backpack stuffed with binoculars, field guides, and park brochures.
The program proved so popular it’s now expanded to 287 local branches and college libraries across the state, including western Colorado towns like Dolores, Dove Creek, and Durango.
People who have used the program almost unanimously recommended a trip to the parks—some families have even set a goal to visit as many of the 40-plus parks as possible during the week they have the pass.
Best of all, many of the state parks are only a short distance from people's homes; for low-income families, the passes offer a portal to nature that would otherwise be out of reach. For everyone it’s a chance to venture out on a first campout, try some trails, learn about plants and animals, and simply get out and enjoy real, rather than virtual, nature.