80 percent of Denver public school kids have never been to the mountains

The Rockies are a stone’s throw away from Denver, but 80 percent of the city’s public school students have never been to the mountains. No alpine hikes. No rafting. Not even a scenic drive.

It’s the kind of stat that seems impossible, yet one that Todd Hartman at the Colorado Department of Natural Resources said he hears all the time.

“We along with Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia are looking at more ways both to give these kids easier access (connections from neighborhoods) and more opportunities,” Hartman wrote to The Colorado Independent. 

Those efforts include partnering with nonprofits like Environmental Learning for Kids and Americorps conservationist subsidiary Colorado Youth Corps, to get minority children in particular the opportunity to explore the wilds outside Denver.

The goal of Governor John Hickenlooper’s “Colorado Beautiful” initiative:  “Within one generation, every Coloradan will live within a 10 minute walk of a park, trail or open-space area.”

“It’s important to bring our newest generations outside, away from electronic distractions and into the splendor of our waterways, forests, wildlife, grasslands, mountains and canyons,” said Hickenlooper in a release.

Ironically, getting more Coloradans off their phones and into nature will involve –you guessed it – mobile-phone apps.

Hickenlooper’s nature team is building “the most comprehensive outdoor recreation map ever created in the state, to include all trails, open spaces, parks and protected lands, with publication planned in 2016.”

Hartman said this map will be interactive, available on all web devices and will help explorers of every level of experience through what he calls the “five stages of recreation” – allowing folks to “explore, plan, book, experience and share memories from a trip in Colorado’s trail system.”

This nanny is just as surprised as you are that her’s is the only “kid” in the Rockies. Image by Diane Renkin. 


  1. I think that this tells us a lot about who is having children in Colorado. The reason kids aren’t getting to the mountains is because their parents aren’t taking them to the mountains. And the reasons for that deserve more exploration. Too poor (probably)? Too busy (bet that’s true, too)? The mountains are full of rich white people, why should I go (That’s why I don’t often visit)? Yes, our natural areas are a big reason people come to our state, and they are worth appreciating in their own right. But with one in five kids in Colorado living in poverty, it’s not surprising that a lot of them don’t get out of town to see Colorado’s scenic beauty.

  2. Interesting, but has their been any discussion regarding the reduction or removal of entrance fees in both the National Parks and Colorado State Parks? Finally, as it pertains to our State Parks, how do Colorado fees compare with fees of other state park systems?

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