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Rocky Mountain National Park may be expanding soon, thanks to a generous donation from former astronaut Vance Brand. Longmont, Colorado-born Brand says he wants to give back to the American people in appreciation of the fond memories he has of the park.
Before Brand was an aeronautical engineer and mission commander for NASA, he spent his summers working in a restaurant at Estes Park. His family now comes together for a reunion in Rocky every year.
Brand purchased the 40 acres of land he hopes to add to the park in 1967, and his family recently donated it to the Rocky Mountain Conservancy. For the land to become a recognized part of the national park, a boundary change must be approved by Congress.
The board of commissioners of Larimer County, where the land is located, unanimously voiced support for Brand’s proposal in a letter to Senator Cory Gardner.
“The land, located in Larimer County, is directly contiguous to the park and will be a valuable addition,” according to the commissioners’ letter, shared by the Loveland Reporter-Herald. “Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the country. This legislation is a great opportunity to enhance the park, with no cost to the taxpayers.”
According to park statistics released by RMNP, the park saw 4,590,493 visitors in 2018, an all-time high and a 42 percent increase since 2012.
The undeveloped piece of land in question is located near Estes Cone and about 4 miles from Longs Peak at an elevation of 9,000 feet.