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Gubernatorial candidates to sound off at next month’s State of the Outdoors

Author: Seth Boster - February 24, 2018 - Updated: February 24, 2018

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(Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance-Facebook)

A second-of-its-kind celebration of the region’s outdoors will have a first-of-its-kind flair.

On March 15, in Colorado Springs’ downtown City Auditorium, six gubernatorial candidates will sound off on issues related to the Front Range’s natural escapes, including access and impact amid rising demand.

Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, Noel Ginsburg and Erik Underwood are the Democratic candidates scheduled to attend the Q&A forum. Steve Barlock, co-chairman of President Donald Trump’s Colorado campaign, is expected to be joined by Republican hopeful Greg Lopez, while Bill Hammons of the Unity Party is set to round out the lineup.

State of the Outdoors will be put on by the nonprofit Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance, comprised of business owners and stewards of the environment who were largely pleased by Gov. John Hickenlooper’s two terms. He leaves office having helped lure to Colorado the industry’s premier and politically minded expo, Outdoor Retailer, which made its Denver debut last month. Hickenlooper also launched the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office in 2015, becoming the second to form such an arm in state government.

That office’s director, Luis Benitez, has described the Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance as the shining example of collaborations he wants to see take root in all corners of the state.

“You hear people say, ‘Well, the governor can’t really do much legislatively.’ But look at what Gov. Hickenlooper has been able to accomplish in this arena,” said Becky Leinweber, the alliance’s executive director. “There are a number of ways the governor can be involved to support and boost the outdoor recreation economy. So it does matter, it definitely does matter.”

Last year’s first State of the Outdoors saw nonprofit and for-profit representatives as well as land managers and city decision makers gather for their interest in the Colorado industry responsible for $28 billion in consumer spending. That’s according to the Outdoor Industry Association, which in the spring is set to release an expanded study showing the economic impact to congressional districts.

Numbers for the 5th Congressional District, including the Pikes Peak region, will be released at State of the Outdoors.

“We know the national and the state numbers, and those are impressive,” Leinweber said. “We want our leaders to know what’s going on right here.”

Also at the event, the alliance plans to unveil a website promoting local businesses, volunteer efforts and the region’s outdoor “gems,” Leinweber said. “Not necessarily the most popular places, but some of the more off-the-beaten-path places.”

She said pikespeakoutdoors.org has been developed with $10,000 from the city’s Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax fund, along with $5,000 from the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

Registration for State of the Outdoors is $20, which pays for appetizers and drinks. Tickets are available at ppora.org.

Lisa Walton