Former Astronaut Donates Huge Piece of Land to Rocky Mountain National Park

by Sean Griffin

Former astronaut Vance Brand has officially donated a 40-acre plot of land to Rocky Mountain National Park, and officials at the park couldn’t be happier.

This 40-acre donation adds to the 265,000 acres already comprising the park.

The Brand family started the donation process back in 2019 when they donated the land to the Rocky Mountain Conservancy. The organization partners with the Rocky Mountain National Park in a non-profit capacity.

Congress then officially authorized the inclusion of the new land and re-organizing the park’s boundaries back in 2021.

On September 12, 2022, the Brand family and the park met to formally announce the donation at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. A photo of the ceremony, with Vance Brand himself holding the scissors, can be viewed here.

The 40-acre contribution may seem insignificant considering the massive breadth of the park. However, this plot of land retains significance because of its strategic location.

The land lies adjacent to the eastern boundary of the park. This means that it provides protection for the park’s fragile high-elevation ecosystem. “It acts as a natural buffer between private lands and three popular trails – Estes Cone, Storm Pass, and Eugenia Mine Trails,” according to OutThere Colorado.

Vance Brand owns deep Colorado ties. Born and raised in Longmont, Colorado, he then attended college at the University of Colorado. Afterward, he attended UCLA.

NASA then selected him as a pilot astronaut in 1966. Then, he served as the commander in three Space Shuttle missions. His career was marked by longevity, as he was the last member of his astronaut class to remain active with NASA.

Rocky Mountain National Park Releases Vance Brand’s Statement on Donation

Rocky Mountain National Park seems to be very pleased with the donation. They released a statement on behalf of Vance Brand. He spoke on what the donation and the park mean to him.

“To me the park is a wonderful place that must be preserved – and where possible expanded. The numerous hiking, camping, and (non-technical) mountain climbing experiences that I had there in my youth led me to purchase land along Rocky Mountain National Park’s eastern boundary in 1967. Over time my family has developed an appreciation of the natural beauty of the land and have encouraged keeping it as it is.”

Conservation efforts seem to be Vance’s primary motivation in making the donation. Additionally, he wants to ensure the land he loved for so long never gets tarnished. He continued his statement, lauding the national park system and its importance.

“I’m thankful that there were early national park enthusiasts like Enos Mills and Teddy Roosevelt who had the foresight to encourage establishment of Rocky Mountain National Park and our entire national park system,” he said.

“The National Park Service does a terrific job of maintaining our national parks. In short, my family and I sincerely hope that this donation to the national park will keep the land in its natural state for the benefit and enjoyment of current and future generations of Americans.”