Fishers Peak Returns to the People
How The Gang of 14’s Commitment Started The Fisher’s Peak Purchase
Members of The Gang of 14:
Top row: Gary Fentiman, Cy Michaels, Karl Gabrielson, Lou Simpleman, Mayor Phil Rico, Former City Manager Greg Sund, Gina Cimino, Tom Perry, Jay Cimino, Vince Cimino
Bottom row: Grant Bennett, Linda Perry, Sal Pace
Not pictured: Henry Field
There have been recent articles on the purchase of Fishers Peak and the highly anticipated economic resurgence for the City of Trinidad and Las Animas County. The success story of the purchase of Fishers Peak starts with those behind the scenes, setting the pace, who not only provided their time and dedication, but also shared a vision for Trinidad as a destination for recreation and local economy vibrancy.
In the Fall of 2017, Mayor Phil Rico and Phil Long Enterprise CEO Jay Cimino discussed what was happening with Fishers Peak and its potential impact for the city. When Mayor Rico mentioned that Fisher’s Peak had been for sale for years, Cimino quickly reached out to Cy Michaels, who knew the owner.
It started with a simple conversation…
On September 17, 2017, Cimino and Michaels met with Evelyne Jung, owner of Fishers Peak, and Henry Field, Jung’s real estate broker, in Santa Fe to facilitate conversations and next steps. One month later, Jay Cimino, Cy Michaels and Karl Gabrielson formed The Gang of Fourteen, a team selected for their energy, expertise and ability to make things happen.
The Gang of Fourteen consisted of individuals who loved the City of Trinidad, many of whom had seen the regrowth of hills of pine, juniper and oak trees on the once-barren landmark, and all of whom wanted to bring access to Fishers Peak to the community.
On October 15, 2017, five all-terrain vehicles ascended to the top of the iconic landmark. While sitting in a semi-circle having lunch, Cimino, who had organized the trek, set out to harness the passion of the group to acquire Fisher’s Peak. The group challenged themselves to make a plan to preserve Fishers Peak, not just for Trinidad, but for the citizens of Colorado. At that time, there were two parcels for sale on the Crazy French Ranch, one for 4,000 acres where Fishers Peak is located and the other for a little over 15,000, for a total of 19,200 acres. With excitement and consensus on how having public access to Fishers Peak could be a game-changer for Trinidad, Cimino committed two million dollars as a down payment to secure the 4,000 acres and as a catalyst to drive partner and investor interest.
During the tour, the group recommended Greg Sund, former Trinidad City Manager, to be the lead on furthering conversations on the purchase of Fishers Peak. With the direction of Grant Bennett, Principal and Founder of Proximity Green, an initial investment discussion was had with Wade Shelton, Senior Project Manager from the Trust for Public Land.
On November 27, 2017, Shelton and colleague Justin Spring from the Trust for Public Land and members from Colorado Open Lands, Great Outdoors Colorado, State of Colorado, and City of Trinidad convened at Phil Long Enterprise Corporate Offices in Colorado Springs to further explore the potential acquisition of Fisher’s Peak through a public and private partnership driven by the City of Trinidad.
During this meeting, it was announced that the aforementioned groups wanted to take over the project and buy all 19,200 acres in order to make it entirely a public purchase. They had once attempted to procure the Crazy French Ranch, but to no avail. Since conservation easements were not part of the proposed land purchase, Colorado Open Lands did not become one of the partners to move forward.
Fully supporting the direction, on December 18, 2017, Cimino and Downtown Trinidad Development Group’s President Gina Cimino met with Ken Salazar, former U.S. Senator, to garner support for the City of Trinidad to acquire the land as a state park.
And with that meeting, the final baton was passed back to Greg Sund, who ran the subsequent Fisher Peak conversations. During 2018, a new partnership was formed to fund the Fishers Peak acquisition including the City of Trinidad, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Great Outdoors Colorado, the Trust for Public Land, and the Nature Conservancy. On February 28, 2019, the land purchase of Crazy French Ranch was completed.
Within an astonishing seven-month period from the time of purchase, on Thursday, September 12, Colorado State Governor Jared Polis signed an executive order naming Fisher’s Peak as Colorado’s 42nd state park. With the collective power and passion of a dedicated group of public and private stakeholders, Fishers Peak is now open to the public for recreation.
Looking back over the last years, the vision for Trinidad was always in the forefront amongst these individuals, businesses, and organizations. Special recognition to The Gang of Fourteen - without their interest and enthusiasm, the Fishers Peak project would not have happened. Much gratitude to The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land, Great Outdoors Colorado, Colorado Open Lands, State of Colorado, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife for being a driving force for Trinidad. Thank you to the citizens of Trinidad who inspire both public and private entities to be the best they can be.