With more than 3 million annual visitors, Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the country. It already spans 265,769 acres and will soon be 40 acres larger, thanks to a generous donation from a former astronaut who is also a Colorado native.

According to the Loveland Reporter-Herald, former astronaut Vance Brand purchased 40 acres of land in 1967. The acreage is about 4 miles northeast of the summit of Longs Peak and is bordered by two sides of the park. The undeveloped land reaches 9,000 feet in elevation, so would make for a perfect hiking location.

Brand and his family recently donated the property to the Rocky Mountain Conservancy,  which is the nonprofit partner to the Rocky Mountain National Park. The first step in the process was to send Senator Cory Gardner a proposal for his donation, and now all that needs to happen is Congress to officially approve the boundary change. Once that occurs, the land will then be recognized as part of the park.

Brand is now retired and living in California, but grew up spending his time in Longmont and Boulder, while also working summers in Estes Park. His family still comes back to Rocky Mountain National Park for a reunion every year.

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