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GOCO board awards $990K for 27 conservation service corps projects to improve public lands and employ youth

Thursday, December 10, 2020 -- GOCO
December 10, 2020

DENVER - Today the GOCO board awarded a total of $990,800 to 27 youth corps projects across Colorado. These grants are part of GOCO’s Conservation Service Corps grant program, run in partnership with Colorado Youth Corps Association (CYCA), which helps local governments and land trusts hire conservation service corps for outdoor recreation and natural resource stewardship projects. 

CYCA represents a statewide coalition of eight accredited corps that train youth, young adults, and veterans to work on land and water conservation projects. Corps members earn a stipend for their service and an AmeriCorps education award to use toward college or reducing existing student loans. 

With increased recreation statewide during the COVID-19 pandemic, parks, trails, and open spaces have faced new issues related to erosion, invasive species spread, trail degradation, and more. Funding from this cycle will help accomplish 60 miles of trail work, mitigate fire fuels on 200 acres, and remove invasive species from 870 acres across Colorado. These projects will employ an estimated 250 youth through eight youth corps organizations for 95 total weeks of work across all projects. 

Projects include: 

Alamosa Trails Stewardship Project, $27,150 grant to City of Alamosa

A crew from Southwest Conservation Corps will work alongside personnel from the City’s parks and recreation department for three weeks on several projects at Alamosa City Ranch and Alamosa Riparian Park. At Alamosa City Ranch, crew members will repair tread, build foot bridges, and compact crusher fine across the property’s 5.3 miles of trail. At Alamosa Riparian Park, crews will reroute 1,000 feet of trail and revegetate the closed portion. In addition, on both properties, crews will help control the spread of invasive species, including thistle, knapweed, puncture vine, and other noxious weeds.

Arkansas River Trail Invasive Plant and Tree Removal Project, $41,800 grant to City of Pueblo

A chainsaw and pesticide application crew from Mile High Youth Corps will work for four weeks to restore a two-acre section of the Arkansas River Trail that is overgrown with dense, invasive vegetation. The crew will work in partnership with staff from the City’s parks and recreation department to cut the trees and pile wood for mulching. They will also treat the affected area with pesticides to prevent future growth. This project will expand access to other trail systems and nearby City Park, Pueblo’s busiest and largest park, during a time of increased recreation due to the pandemic.

Back to the Basics- Passive Recreation and Wildlife Habitat Enhancements, $18,800 grant to City of Boulder

The City of Boulder will use its grant to employ a Mile High Youth Corps crew for needed enhancements at Boulder Reservoir. The crew will focus specifically on the North Shore and Coot Lake Management Area, a 122-acre open space that borders the reservoir and features 4.5 miles of trail, a fishing area, wildlife viewing opportunities, and more. To enhance recreation opportunities and wildlife habitat, the crew will close and restore undesignated trails, address trail sustainability, restore grasslands that provide habitat for a variety of species, and remove invasive species.

Brush Creek Valley Ranch and Open Space Western Trail Connection, $17,960 grant to Eagle County

 A camping crew from Rocky Mountain Youth Corps will work for two weeks to make progress on a 2.4-mile, single-track trail at Brush Creek Valley Ranch and Open Space (BCVROS). Once complete, the Rim Trail will connect BCVROS to the Haymaker trail system, public land owned by the Bureau of Land Management, and the United States Forest Service trail system located on Hardscrabble Mountain Road. This connection was the community’s most-requested trail during an extensive master planning process for BCVROS. 

Cripple Creek Parks and Trails Restoration and Development Project, $26,940 grant to City of Cripple Creek

With this funding, a crew from Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) will make enhancements at Gold Camp Trail, City Park, and Mountain View Adventure Park to improve recreation opportunities. On Gold Camp Trail, the crew will remove weeds and rocks, implement erosion control measures, and replace missing and damaged signs. To provide a safer experience for visitors, MHYC will restore the City Park’s playground equipment, picnic tables, fencing, and trash cans. Finally, at Mountain View Adventure Park, the crew will make minor surface enhancements on the park’s walking trail, BMX bike track, and sidewalk.

Durango Area Trails Alliance Stewardship Collaboration, $35,920 grant to City of Durango

A crew from Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) will work for five weeks on enhancements at Dalla Mountain Park, Overend Mountain Park, and Horse Gulch. To address the impacts of increased recreation, the SCC crew will restore seven miles of social trails, improve access to climbing sites, and install new wayfinding and educational signage at Dalla Mountain Park. At Overend Mountain Park, the crew will address social trails, improve trail tread, install signage, and if possible, repair and replace damaged bridges. Finally, at Horse Gulch, the crew will conduct basic trail maintenance, repair undesignated trails, remove weeds and trash, and install signage. 

Elkhorn Creek Forest Health Initiative, $62,700 grant to Larimer County

With the help of GOCO funds, a chainsaw crew will work for six weeks to clear dead trees and reduce forest density on a 15-acre parcel of Ben Delatour Scout Ranch. The acreage designated for this project faces extreme fire risk due to a large concentration of dense ponderosa pine and dry mixed conifer trees. The crew will traverse the property’s steep slopes to cut trees and pile wood to burn at a later date. The impact of this project combined with past and planned efforts will improve forest health and protect the Elkhorn Creek area, which supplies water to more than 300,000 people. 

Emerald Ash Borer Mitigation in Wheat Ridge, $41,800 grant to City of Wheat Ridge

The City of Wheat Ridge will use its grant to hire a Mile High Youth Corps crew to address the spread of Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive beetle species that feeds on ash trees. The crew will work with City forestry staff to assess 700 trees on various properties, place signs on trees as part of the City’s “Watch Your Ash” awareness campaign, install beetle traps, and salvage infected trees when possible. In conjunction with this project, the City will conduct outreach to assist residents with ash trees on private property. 

Fire and Noxious Weed Mitigation at Bell Park, $62,700 grant to City and County of Denver

The City will partner with Mile High Youth Corps to deploy a chainsaw crew to treat 10 acres of forested land at Bell ark. Bell Park is located near Evergreen and is managed by Denver Mountain Parks, a subsidiary of Denver Parks and Recreation. The crew will work for six weeks to thin dense trees to reduce fire risk and remove noxious weeds to improve ecological health. 

Garden of the Gods & Rock Ledge Ranch- Noxious Weed Treatment Program, $20,900 grant to City of Colorado Springs

The City of Colorado Springs will hire a Mile High Youth Corps crew for an ongoing project to remove noxious weeds at Garden of the Gods and Rock Ledge Ranch. Last summer, a crew treated 17 acres infested with invasive species, and this funding will support a second phase to re-treat areas that have seen regrowth. Following initial treatment, it is common for invasive seed banks to further propagate, requiring land managers to closely monitor treated areas to avoid continued spread. This project will build on last year’s work to promote growth of native plant populations and maintain critical wildlife habitat at some of the County’s most valuable outdoor resources. 

Hazard Tree and Forest Fuel Mitigation in Eastern Grand County, $41,800 grant to Town of Winter Park

With this funding, a crew from Rocky Mountain Youth Corps will clear dead trees and other forest fuels along 20 miles of trail in Winter Park, Fraser, and Tabernash. Grand County has been greatly affected by the pine beetle epidemic, which increases wildfire risk due to the large number of dead trees. The crew will work for four weeks to remove dead and diseased trees and pile wood for burning on the Idlewild and Phases trail systems.

Intemann Trail Sustainability Project, $25,050 grant to City of Manitou Springs

The City of Manitou Springs will use its funding to hire a Mile High Youth Corps crew for three weeks of work on Intemann Trail, the backbone of the city’s trail system. The path connects to Iron Mountain Open Space and Red Mountain Open Space, providing access to some of the County’s most popular trails and outdoor spaces. The crew will restore a closed section of the trail, build a retaining wall near the western trailhead, close undesignated social trails, and conduct general tread maintenance.

John Griffin Regional Park Fire Mitigation Project, $41,800 grant to Cañon City Area Metropolitan Recreation and Park District 

A chainsaw crew from Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) will work for four weeks to remove dead cottonwood trees from a five-acre section of John Griffin Regional Park. This project will build on previous efforts by MHYC crews to eradicate invasive Russian olive and tamarisk at the park, which was completed earlier this year after three summers of work. Now, to further support ecological health and reduce risk of wildfire after a record season, crews will cut the dead and fallen trees, which will be used as firewood and mulch. 

Methodist Front Wildland Urban Interface Forest and Watershed Health Restoration, $20,900 grant to City of Salida and $20,900 grant to Town of Poncha Springs

With the help of GOCO funding, a chainsaw crew from Southwest Conservation Corps will work for four weeks to reduce wildfire risk along five linear miles of land adjacent to Highway 285. The crew will thin dense trees on 178 acres of steep terrain and clear brush on an additional 300 acres of flat land. These areas were identified as the highest priorities for wildfire mitigation in the 2020 Chaffee County Next Generation master plan due to the large concentration of dead trees and other dry plant matter.

North Mt. Elbert Maintenance, $53,880 grant to Lake County

As the highest point in Colorado, Mt. Elbert receives an average of more than 20,000 hiking use days annually. A camping crew from Rocky Mountain Youth Corps will repair and reroute a quarter-mile portion of the north trail that has been badly damaged from heavy use. The completed trailwork will reduce the average grade on the section from 50% to 18%, enhancing user experience and accessibility. Crews will also install rock stairways and retaining walls to mitigate future damage and erosion. 

Paonia River Park Expansion Project, $55,350 grant to Delta County

With the help of GOCO funding, a crew from Western Colorado Conservation Corps will work for six weeks to build a soft-surface trail from Paonia River Park to Paonia Junior/Senior High School, a route already established through informal, social trails. The new trail will provide better access to the park for the school’s students and more opportunities for outdoor and environmental education. The crew will also clear Russian olive and tamarisk, two invasive species that crowd out other plants and soak up water, along the Gunnison River at the park and along the trail. 

Prairie Stream Restoration on SPLT, $31,350 grant to Southern Plains Land Trust (SPLT)

With this funding, SPLT will hire a Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) crew for riparian restoration at Heartland Ranch and Raven’s Nest nature preserves. Tamarisk, an invasive species that crowds other plants and soaks up water, is prevalent at both locations. SPLT has worked to remove the plants along the properties’ riparian areas, and with help from MHYC, could achieve total eradication. Crews will also install structures along streams and side channels to reduce erosion caused by livestock grazing. 

Purgatoire River Trails, Trees and Wildlife, $40,330 grant to City of Trinidad

A chainsaw and pesticide application crew from Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) will build a new trail connecting the Trinidad Riverwalk to a new recreation area that is currently difficult to access. The crew will also expand access to the river by clearing trees and invasive species to create two new entry points. To further enhance users’ experience at the river, the crew will also create space for a wildlife viewing station in partnership with Forever Our Rivers, which has awarded funding for a bench and interpretive signage at the site. Along the entirety of the trail, MHYC will conduct routine maintenance and clear forest fuels to reduce wildfire risk. 

Resource Protection and Sacramento Creek Ranch, $28,410 grant to Mountain Area Land Trust (MALT)

The Sacramento Creek property was acquired in 2019 and serves as MALT’s base for conservation operations, features trails that are open to the public, and is a site for environmental education and high-alpine research. Camping and chainsaw crews from Southwest Conservation Corps will work for three weeks on a variety of maintenance improvements on the property, including invasive species mitigation, dead tree and debris removal, and fence installation. To expand recreation opportunities at Sacramento Creek, crews will establish a new camping area and repair the existing tent pads. They will also create a hillside outdoor classroom by terracing a portion of the property, as well as building steps and seats out of rocks and logs. 

Riverbend Park Riparian Restoration, $20,900 grant to Town of Palisade

The Riverbend Park Restoration Project is a multi-year, collaborative effort to mitigate invasive species at this popular park located along the Colorado River. The first phase of this project was completed last summer, and the second phase will begin this spring with the help of GOCO funds. A crew from Western Colorado Conservation Corps will work for three weeks to remove Russian olive and tamarisk, two invasive species that crowd out other plants and soak up water, on four acres of riparian habitat. They will also restore native vegetation once the noxious weeds are removed.

Russian Olive Tree Removal, $31,350 grant to Foothills Park and Recreation District (FPRD)

At Wayside Meadows Park and Meadows Golf Club, FPRD will hire a Mile High Youth Corps crew for three weeks to remove Russian olive trees, an invasive species that crowds out other plants and soaks up water. They will also apply pesticides to prevent future spread, giving native species the opportunity for regrowth. The project will improve overall ecological health, reduce erosion and flooding, and help restore water quality. 

Settler's Creek Hazardous Fuels Reduction, $20,900 grant to Summit County

Summit County will hire a Rocky Mountain Youth Corps crew for forest fuel mitigation work on Settler’s Creek Open Space, located in the eastern portion of the Keystone Resort development area. The crew will address the extensive pine beetle kill in the area by removing dead and diseased lodgepole pine across the property. They will also remove living trees that are at risk of uprooting from wind once the dead trees are cleared. The wood collected from these trees will be piled and burned at a later date.

Spring Creek Forest Fuels Reduction Project, $31,350 grant to Huerfano County

With the help of GOCO funding, a chainsaw crew from Mile High Youth Corps will work for three weeks to thin dense forest on five acres of public land located adjacent to private residential parcels. Crews will clear ponderosa pine, oak, mixed conifer, and aspen trees using a “thinning from below” approach, which involves cutting ground and low limbs before removing select sub-canopy trees. The County hopes that through this effort, nearby landowners will be motivated to thin forests appropriately to reduce wildfire risk across the landscape. 

Standley Lake Loop Trail Segment Construction, $50,100 grant to City of Westminster

At Standley Lake, the City of Westminster will hire a Mile High Youth Corps crew for six weeks of trail construction to complete the final phase of the lake’s loop trail. Two-thirds of the trail is already built, but the remaining portion will require additional work due to wildlife buffers and watershed crossings. Once complete, the trail will cross Woman Creek and pass through a Bald Eagle nesting area, providing hikers with a unique nature experience in an urban setting. 

West Gunnison Park Open Space Trail, $17,960 grant to City of Gunnison

This funding will support a new park in the West Gunnison neighborhood, a diverse and underserved area of the city. A crew from Western Colorado Conservation Corps will build a gravel trail to connect the park to a planned residential community, the scenic Gunnison River waterfront, a senior care center, and nearby open space. Crews will also restore native vegetation and remove noxious weeds along the trail, and if time permits, install playground equipment purchased by the City. 

Wildfire Partners: Youth Corps Helping Seniors Adapt to Wildfire Risk, $41,800 grant to Boulder County

Boulder County will use its funding to hire a crew from Mile High Youth Corps for four weeks of work across 16 properties with conservation easements. The County’s Wildfire Partners program has worked closely with MHYC for the past three years to reduce wildfire risk on private and public lands. This year’s project will focus on privately owned, conserved lands whose landowners are elderly or cannot perform this needed work. The crew will remove dead and diseased trees, clear brush and weeds, clean debris, chip wood, and build rock barriers around houses to reduce the impacts of potential wildfires.

Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers, and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts, and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created when voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 5,300 projects in all 64 counties of Colorado without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.