Former Astronaut Vance Brand Works to Expand Rocky Mountain National Park

rocky mountain national park
Photo: Courtesy of Phanom Nuangchomphoo/Shutterstock

Former astronaut and Colorado native Vance Brand is looking to make one of America’s largest national parks even larger. The 88-year-old is working to donate 40 acres of land that he had purchased back in 1967 to Rocky Mountain National Park, reports The Denver Post. And and on Tuesday, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner officially introduced the required legislation to see it all through.

The parcel is located on the eastern boundary of the park, just four miles from Longs Peak, where Brand has a deep, personal connection to the land. According to the Post, Brand has climbed Longs Peak several times — one of the most prominent fourteeners in Colorado — and he used to spend his summers in high school and college working in Estes Park. This whole area is dear to his heart.

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A year ago, Brand had donated the land that his family owned to the Rocky Mountain Conservancy, with the intent to eventually have it transferred to the National Park Service. However, national park land acquisition still requires an act of Congress before it’s official. The legislation introduced this week is a key first step. It’s also a bipartisan effort as the legislation is co-sponsored by Colorado Senator (and Democratic presidential candidate) Michael Bennet, reports the Post.

“I was elevator boy at the Stanley Hotel one year, and I worked at the Plantation Cafe as a busboy,” Brand said in an interview with The Denver Post. “I really took the opportunity with my friends to hike around the park. Climbed Longs Peak quite a few times and (hiked) across from Estes Park to Grand Lake. The first hike I did up there was as a Boy Scout. So I’ve been over a lot of the trails in the park, and I just think it’s a great thing for the American people to have such a magnificent place to hike and climb and enjoy.”

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The donated land will provide a nice buffer zone between three popular trails in the park: the Storm Pass, Estes Cone and Eugenia Mine trails—and other privately owned land.

“This land is entirely undeveloped, so it will not increase the deferred maintenance of the National Park Service in any way,” Rocky Mountain Conservancy Executive Director Esther Rivera Murdock wrote in a supporting letter to Gardner, reports the Post. “The land is beautifully forested with aspen and pine, and threaded with quiet, meandering creeks.”

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Brand served as commander on space shuttle missions in 1982, 1984 and 1990. He is a Longmont native, as well as a University of Colorado graduate, and he still hosts family reunions at Estes Park every year, reports the Post. His donation of land is a lasting and substantial gift for any and all outdoor enthusiasts who live and visit the land he treasures so much.

“The people own the park. This is just a very small addition,” Brand added, to the Post.

h/t The Denver Post

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