It’s not just a new year , it’s a new decade. From Facebook feeds to office conversations, you’ve probably heard plenty of talk regarding what everyone you know is going to change about their life to somehow become a better person over months to come. Let’s take a quick moment to consider what Colorado could do in months to come to become a better state for its residents to live.

Editor’s Note: This article represents the opinion of the author, not necessarily that of OutThere Colorado.

1. Improvements to outdoor recreation education

There’s no escaping the fact that tourists and newcomers are flooding Colorado – can you blame them? Because so many people are entering Colorado’s outdoor recreation space for the first time, it makes it crucial for those in the outdoor recreation community and for the state to focus on educating the masses about how to interact with nature in a safe and responsible way.

What’s being done?

More signage seems to be popping up on popular trails featuring messaging about efforts like Leave No Trace. Permitting and pay-to-play strategies are also being utilized in highly trafficked areas. While these restrictions can be frustrating at times, they do limit traffic, thus limit the damage at some of the state’s sacred spots.

It’s also worth noting that the safety message also seems to be becoming more prevalent, with groups like the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative creating an entire video series about fourteener safety.

2. Pushing travel solutions along

Colorado is growing quickly and it doesn’t seem like the infrastructure can handle it. Construction projects that are underway can often feel they’ll be outdated well before completion. Instead of thinking 5 years ahead or 10 years ahead, let’s think 20 years ahead.

What’s being done?

Talk about high-speed mass transportation is pushing its way into conversations and media coverage, but will it ever happen? Whether or not this comes to fruition seems to be up in the air. In the meantime, key large-scale construction projects, like fixing the infamous “gap” on I-25, will hopefully fix some of the travel and traffic pains. Offering additional options for travel into the mountains also seems to be top of mind, with Bustang offering ski rides and Winter Park offering a train service.

It’s also worth noting that wildlife crossing have been added over the past year with more of them likely on the way. These crossings make it easier for animals to migrate and move about Colorado’s natural landscape while lowering the chances of vehicle-animal collisions.

3. Improving the public’s natural disaster preparedness

Colorado has made big leaps in natural disaster preparedness, but there’s always room for improvement. Last winter there were avalanches covering interstates, 8.5 million pound rocks crushing roads, and more than 1,000 left stranded as a winter storm blew across the Front Range. Education about what to do when severe weather hits is crucial to saving lives and tax dollars, along with continued hard work by the Colorado Department of Transportation team.

What’s being done?

A couple interesting initiatives include “winter driving safety” events hosted by Colorado Department of Transportation and aggressive avalanche mitigation. Do your part this winter and avoid traveling roads that you’re uncomfortable driving. It makes life safer for you, other drivers, and first responders.

4. Amping up the cuisine scene

If there’s one thing Colorado ISN’T known for, it’s food. Colorado has a state cactus, a state pet, even a state dinosaur, but no state dish. If Colorado were to have a state dish, it would probably have to be deep-fried bull testicles…that or something related to “fast casual” dining. With the exception of a few select spots, Colorado’s food is relatively generic.

What’s being done?

With Colorado’s recent growth has come a new wave of growth in food scene. Exciting new restaurants are popping up in heavily populated spots like Colorado Springs and Denver, but also in mountain towns that are seeing an influx of year-round tourism. We might never have a “state food,” but at least our dining options seem to be on their way to something better and more expansive.

5. Bringing new life to Broncos football

Let’s be honest… the Broncos spent most of the season as an awful football team. While they finished the season at 7-9, they were 3-8 until their last 5 games. However, there was a silver lining – Drew Lock. He took up the reigns as starting quarterback and led the Broncos to a season ending 4-1 record. Lock has already been declared the tentative starter for the 2020-2021 season. Hopefully he’s got more juice left.

What’s being done?

The Broncos could soon see some big changes. For one, CEO Joe Ellis has mentioned that the team could go up for sale. However, it’s also worth noting that this is the first year since Super Bowl 50 that the Broncos will likely keep the same starting QB and the same head coach that they ended the season with. Something tells me a big factor in the Broncos outlook will be whether or not Lock can keep the steam rolling.

6. Better wildlife education

Stop feeding that cute deer hanging out in your yard! Don’t pet that elk that’s walking by (duh)! Keep your dogs leashed so they can’t kill baby animals. Humans are already invasive enough when it comes to entering a wild environment. The last thing wildlife needs is additional interference in their natural behavior via increased human-wildlife interaction. When wildlife interacts with humans, it can push them away from instinctual skills they utilize to survive. It also opens the door for the interaction to go badly, something that will often lead to the animal being euthanized.

What’s being done?

Colorado Parks and Wildlife did a great job throughout 2019 of promoting a wildlife safety message, utilizing the hashtag #keepwildlifewild. As a member of the outdoor recreation community, do your part to follow their guidelines and politely educate others when you get the chance.

7. Leave less noise

By this point, most people in Colorado’s outdoor recreation space have a grasp with either “Leave No Trace” or “Pack it in, pack it out.” That doesn’t mean everyone follows best practices, but most people at least known they shouldn’t be littering.

On the flip side, very few people seem to be aware of the detrimental effects that noise can have on a wild outdoor space. For one, unnatural noise can throw off the balance between predators and prey, potentially disrupting entire ecosystems. Consider this scenario: A mouse can hypothetically hear a hawk diving from 100 feet away, giving them a fair chance to escape the dinner menu. However, with a little background noise, that distance is far less – maybe 15, 20 feet. This makes it harder for the prey to evade capture, potentially leading to the depletion of a prey species beyond its sustainable local population. This could then potentially come full circle, forcing the predator to adapt or starve. Read more about the topic here.

What’s being done?

The topic of Leave No Noise is finally starting to work its way into some mainstream media outlets, but it still seems to be relatively undiscussed aside from noise as a nuisance. If you get a chance to bring it up with your adventure friends, do it. If you’re in the media and have a chance to write about the topic, do it. Spreading the word will hopefully lead more people to care about noise pollution and if we’re lucky, it’ll also mean fewer hikers blasting awful hit-singles from a portable speaker on the trail.

What’d I leave off this list? Let us know in the comments!

Editor’s Note: This article represents the opinion of the author, not necessarily that of OutThere Colorado.

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