Aurora library lets you book a state park getaway

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AURORA | Colorado may be home to many of the more picturesque vistas this side of the nation’s largest ball of twine, but time, money and mere organization can prevent many local residents from ever soaking in the region’s well-documented mountain majesties.

That’s why the state library system teamed up Colorado Parks and Wildlife to launch the Check-Out Colorado State Parks program, an initiative intended to soften the barriers to entry for potential park-goers from across the state.

Launched as a pilot program in October 2015, the new offering allows library card holders to rent out an Osprey backpack with a free state parks pass for up to one week at a time. On top of containing the pass that offers free access to Colorado’s 42 state parks, the pack also holds a pair of binoculars and several informational pamphlets on topics such as bird watching, geology and camping.

Nearly 12.5 million people visited a Colorado state park in fiscal year 2014-15, according to the CPW annual report.

The Aurora Public Library’s Central Branch was named one of eight libraries across the state to be involved in the pilot version of the backpack initiative last fall, when the Colorado State Library — which hangs off of the Colorado Department of Education — put out a call to local librarians, feeling out who might be a good fit for the test project, according to Megan Ellis, programming and outreach coordinator for the Aurora library system.

Since launching the backpack program in Aurora, Ellis said that the waiting list for the program is currently running nearly 60 names long.

“I don’t think they were on display for a day before they got snagged,” she said.

There are currently two backpacks being circulated out of Aurora, according to Ellis.

The Central Branch of the Aurora library system in the city’s municipal complex joined libraries in Brighton, Paonia, Green Valley Ranch, Rifle, Las Animas County, Grand Junction and Trinidad in the initial pilot program.

Ellis said that Aurora was chosen because of the local library’s familiarity with having patrons check out non-traditional items, such as day passes to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys.

“We’ve had experience circulating those items and this (backpack program) was very similar in terms of getting things put into the catalogue,” she said. “It help that we already had system in place.”

Offering items and classes beyond just books has been an ongoing push for the Aurora Public Library in recent years, according to Ellis, who said that the institution is actively trying to double down on partnerships with other cultural establishments in the region.

“It’s just a matter of getting the staff time to do it all,” she said. “We definitely have a goal to do that.”

The backpack program will be expanding in Aurora and across the state in the coming weeks, with additional backpacks and passes expected to be available in 286 libraries across Colorado by the end of June, according to Matt Robbins, spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Robbins said that the program will provide two backpacks to all of the state’s municipal library systems, as well as libraries at some military bases, state universities and at least one Native American reservation.

Ellis said that Aurora could receive as many as four additional backpacks and day passes. She added that the city is planning on adding extra nicknacks, such as bug boxes and magnifying glasses to the backpacks in order to round out the experience.