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GOCO board commits $8.2 million in funding through Resilient Communities, Generation Wild, Fellowship, and RESTORE programs

Tuesday, March 16, 2021 -- GOCO
March 16, 2021

                                                                                                                                                                  Garfield County Outdoors. Photo by moxie82inc.

DENVER- The GOCO board has committed $8,221,245 in funding through four grant programs. More than half of the funding, totaling $4,660,790, was awarded through the final round of GOCO’s Resilient Communities program (RCP), which funds one-time, immediate needs or opportunities that have emerged in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program helps partners advance outdoor recreation, stewardship, and land protection projects in a manner that best reflects community needs and priorities at this unique moment in time. This round will support 21 projects in 28 counties. 

Additionally, the board committed $2 million in Generation Wild funding to the Garfield County Outdoors coalition and the Westy POWER-PODER coalition in Westminster. This program aims to break down barriers to the outdoors for youth and families statewide by investing in diverse, community-based partners that provide youth programming and job and internship opportunities. In December 2020, the board committed funding to 10 additional existing Generation Wild coalitions with a $15.4 million investment. 

The board also awarded the first round of funding, amounting to $560,455, through GOCO’s Fellowship program. This new program pairs young people from diverse backgrounds with outdoor organizations to gain two years of meaningful experience in the fields of conservation, outdoor recreation, or stewardship. Fellows will help complete priority projects while learning about the mission and work of their respective organizations. The program will reduce barriers to careers in natural resources and the outdoors and create new opportunities for young people. 

Finally, the board also awarded $1 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) in support of the second round of the collaborative RESTORE Colorado program. RESTORE is a new strategic partnership among GOCO, NFWF, Gates Family Foundation, Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board established to fund large-scale habitat restoration and stewardship projects across several habitat priorities in Colorado. Grants are awarded through NFWF, and GOCO and other partners support the effort through portioned investments. Project details will be shared soon.

Resilient Communities Funding

Black Bear Hole, 2nd Avenue Trailhead Access and LMJ Improvements Proposal, $282,003 grant to Town of Lyons

The Town of Lyons will use its funding to address impacts of increased recreational use along the St. Vrain River corridor, which runs through the center of town. At Black Bear Hole, a main access point to the river, the Town will restore trails, picnic sites, and landscaping. To improve visitor experience, project partners will install riverside seating and designate 15-20 parking spaces, as no parking currently exists in the area. Additionally, this project will include a new trailhead and parking area at 2nd Avenue, which is located adjacent to Black Bear Hole. This will expand parking capacity by 125-130 spaces and help guide users with a formal trailhead. 

Building Community Resilience through Expanded Capacity, $133,700 grant to Colorado West Land Trust (CWLT)

With this funding, CWLT will create a new regional conservationist position to pursue land conservation opportunities in Delta, Montrose, and Ouray counties. This position will also develop a new comprehensive stewardship plan to address sustainability, ecological health, and climate resiliency on conserved lands, as well as gather data that will inform a new water strategy. CWLT will also hire a new regional director in the second half of 2021 to better serve Montrose, Delta, Ouray, Gunnison, and San Miguel counties. This role will be based out of Montrose and will provide critical leadership to advance conservation projects and develop new partnerships. 

Caring for Community Lands, $72,500 grant to Aspen Valley Land Trust (AVLT)

AVLT will create a new stewardship position with the help of GOCO funding. Currently, the land trust has one full-time stewardship director who is responsible for restoration projects; landowner relationships; community partnerships; and infrastructure and maintenance of its parks, outdoor education campuses, and trails. Adding a stewardship assistant will expand AVLT’s capacity to conduct monitoring and conservation easement protection, support restoration projects, and oversee improvements to community spaces, which is important as the organization continues to conserve more land and engage the community with conserved places. 

Casey Jones Campground Park Expansion, $150,000 grant to Elizabeth Park and Rec District

Casey Jones Park has been a fixture of the Elizabeth community since 1987 and has seen a variety of enhancements in recent years. In March 2020, the District purchased an additional 76 acres to expand the then 27-acre park, opening opportunities for further development and enhancement. Project partners will use GOCO funding to extend the existing road through the campground to the north and create a new loop located to the east of the park’s rodeo arena. This will include 10 full hook-up sites, a tent camping area, and four all-season yurts, each complete with electricity and heat, a camp kitchen, and a small deck. Other enhancements include a new road for emergency access, sanitation infrastructure, and a parking lot. 

Collaborative Conservation for Private Lands in the Arkansas Headwaters Region, $116,822 grant to Central Colorado Conservancy (CCC)

CCC will use GOCO funding to establish a funding agreement and partnerships with the Upper Arkansas Conservation District and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to deliver technical, educational, and financial support for conservation on private lands. CCC will also evaluate efficacy of existing conservation practices on 3,300 acres of private lands enrolled in its Community Conservation Connection program. Additionally, funding will support the Upper Arkansas Watershed Partnership, which aims to develop a framework for prioritizing water planning efforts with a coalition of agricultural landowners and other constituents. Along with this effort, CCC aims to begin development of at least five new conservation easement or acquisition projects with the goal of protecting 1,000 acres of wetlands, rivers, and working landscapes across the Arkansas Headwaters region. 

Colorado CORE (Community Outreach with Resident Experts): Youth Voices, $400,000 grant to The Trust for Public Land (TPL)

This funding will support TPL’s Community Outreach with Resident Experts (CORE) program, which is a collaborative effort between TPL, local city governments, and nonprofit partners to improve close-to-home nature access in Colorado’s Front Range communities, particularly in Denver and El Paso counties. TPL and its partners will conduct community outreach in Denver’s southwest and northeast neighborhoods and in the southeast community of Colorado Springs to help residents envision and create the outdoor spaces they need to thrive. The program will employ groups of young people in each community to help complete projects, as well as address funding gaps related to the pandemic for organizations leading the work. This work will be done in conjunction with TPL’s community partners, including Environmental Learning for Kids, Groundwork Denver, and the RISE Coalition.

Colorado's Private Lands Conservation Plan, $175,000 grant to Keep It Colorado

Keep It Colorado will develop a private lands conservation plan for the statewide conservation community to utilize. The plan will focus on collective protection efforts on the priority lands, waters, and habitats necessary to create resilient and connected physical landscapes in the face of climate change, population growth, and economic recovery from the pandemic. Additionally, it will establish models for conservation based on effective programs that connect people with their local landscapes, which will help create vibrant, thriving communities into the future. This plan will create a rallying cry around bold but achievable objectives that highlight the economic opportunities of conservation as Colorado communities recover from the pandemic and focus on addressing climate impacts.

CUSP Field Crew, $136,168 grant to Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP)

CUSP will use its GOCO grant to deploy a trail crew to complete needed stewardship projects at Buffalo Creek, Mueller State Park, and Eleven Mile State Park, as well as engage with private landowners about proper fire mitigation. Buffalo Creek is a popular area for dispersed camping, and the crew will install fire rings and conduct general maintenance needed after last summer’s increase in campers. At Mueller State Park, the crew will clear slash from previous fire fuels work to mitigate future risk in light of 2020’s record fire season. Finally, at Eleven Mile State Park, the crew will construct an elevated, 700-foot trail over the park’s wetlands, providing better access to backcountry camping. 

Dakota Ridge Urgent and Emergent Land Acquisition, $850,000 grant to City of Loveland

With the help of GOCO funds, the City of Loveland will acquire and conserve the 245-acre Dakota Ridge property located in the area’s “Foothills Corridor.” The property and surrounding area provide critical habitat for a variety of wildlife, including mountain lion, mule deer, bear, rattlesnake, prairie lizards, and several bird species. Residential development in the foothills corridor region has risen significantly in recent years, highlighting the importance of acquiring and conserving the Dakota Ridge property to protect area wildlife. Once the acquisition is complete, the City will create a public natural area to add to the abundant recreation resources nearby. 

Enhanced Land Conservation, Stewardship, and Conservation Connections, $86,200 grant to La Plata Open Space Conservancy (LPOSC)

This funding will help LPOSC launch a conservation, stewardship, and community engagement initiative to grow connections between area residents and local conservation work. The project will involve a multi-tiered approach with the goal of engaging LPOSC’s partners, local youth, and other community members in the Conservancy’s work. LPOSC will host information sessions for land-oriented professionals, including realtors, attorneys, and land planners to discuss increased development pressure in the area. The conservancy will also offer workshops for new owners of conserved properties to share information about land management and conservation practices. In addition, LPOSC staff will host one-on-one sessions with landowners to provide personalized education and guidance. 

Get Outdoors East Greeley-Inspiring Access to Neighborhood Nature, $300,000 grant to City of Greeley

This grant will help the City of Greeley develop East Greeley Natural Area, an agricultural field turned urban outdoor space located in the east area of the city. This new site is envisioned as a park-open space hybrid that will provide local residents and youth with easy access to nature in their own neighborhood. The first phase of development will include nature play amenities, interactive public art installations, a trail network, and native plants and landscaping. Future phases could include an archery area, urban camping spaces, and a community gathering pavilion. Planning for the natural area is rooted in a years-long community engagement process, which identified several residential areas in the city with limited recreation opportunities.

Healing Lands and Reconnecting People, $222,314 grant to Montezuma Land Conservancy (MLC)

With this funding, MLC and its partners, including the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Telluride Institute (TI), and the Mountain Studies Institute, will launch a new initiative to build cross-cultural connections between local tribal and non-tribal communities. Partners will seek to accomplish this through ecological and cultural restoration opportunities, outcomes-based citizen science, youth leadership projects, teacher training, and roundtable discussions. Funding will also support a cross-cultural program manager position working with both MLC and TI to facilitate community engagement as a part of this project. Additionally, MLC and TI will award eight scholarships for local youth to participate in a hands-on leadership course provided by project partners. 

Naturescape Play and Outdoor Education Project, $199,220 grant to Montrose County

Montrose County and the Ute Indian Museum will use GOCO funding to build a nature-themed exhibit and play area to expand outdoor recreation and cultural learning opportunities for museum visitors. The museum is located on eight acres of property adjacent to the Uncompahgre River and welcomes more than 17,000 visitors each year. The exhibit will include a shelter village depicting traditional homes of the Ute people, an archeological dig site with information about Ute artifacts, a play area made from natural materials in the Native American style, and an outdoor classroom for year-round, safe programming. The nature play area will connect to the nearby Uncompahgre River Trail, which provides access to both ends of the downtown area.

Nederland Shoreline Trails and Stewardship Project, $181,029 grant to Town of Nederland

Town of Nederland will create new trails and improve access to Barker Reservoir, which saw an influx of users last summer. This spike in recreation has created multiple maintenance issues, including the creation of undesignated trails, erosion, and water quality concerns. The Town will partner with local youth services nonprofit TEENS Inc. to deploy a stewardship crew to build and restore trails, as well as assist in the construction of a nature play structure along the reservoir’s western shoreline. A portion of the property is a former sludge pond reclaimed from the nearby water treatment plant. It will be transformed into a natural meadow complete with native plants, benches, and fencing. The Town will also install dog waste bins and interpretive signage to encourage responsible recreation. 

Non-Motorized Trail Maintenance Strike Team, $158,686 grant to Colorado Mountain Bike Association (COMBA)

COMBA will use GOCO funding to deploy a trail maintenance crew for single-track trail restoration in the Clear Creek and South Platte ranger districts, located west of the Denver Metro area. The pandemic brought an influx of new visitors to outdoor spaces across the state, and those within close proximity to Colorado’s major population center were deeply impacted. A five-person crew will focus on 22 miles of trail in the Indian Creek Area and in Pike National Forest. These areas are identified as high priority for restoration work and will require heavy maintenance and several trail reroutes. The crew will work for 16 weeks between June and September.

Outdoor Stewardship Needs in the City of Boulder, $134,735 grant to City of Boulder

The City of Boulder will address a variety of stewardship needs across the city’s outdoor spaces with the help of GOCO funding. At Boulder Reservoir, the City’s Parks and Recreation department will hire a seasonal ranger to perform surveys and data collection while leading education and stewardship programs. This position will also assist with land management and enforcement including trail construction along the reservoir’s north shore, closing social trails, mitigating invasive weeds, and encouraging compliance by visitors. Across the city’s Open Space and Mountain Parks system, this funding will support invasive species removal and fencing along foothill trails to protect sensitive natural resources.

Public Lands Stewardship and Visitor Education, $260,200 grant to San Juan County

San Juan County, in partnership with the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, San Juan Mountain Association (SMJA), and Mountain Studies Institute, will use this grant to mitigate effects of increased use of the County’s outdoor spaces during the pandemic. On-the-ground stewardship teams will address maintenance needs on popular trails, including Ice Lakes Basin, which was significantly damaged and littered after a record 2020 season. Funding will also support an expanded “Alpine Rangers” program to patrol the Ice Lakes Basin area and educate visitors about safety and natural resource laws. Additionally, a paid crew of “Forest Ambassadors” stationed at recreation hotspots will lead education sessions and small-scale stewardship projects with local youth interns and community volunteers. Finally, to create more interactive experiences for the public, SMJA will establish a new Public Lands Discovery Center at the rest stop area of Molas Pass. 

Trail Conservation Crew, $166,211 grant to Eagle County

Eagle County and the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance (VVMTA) will use GOCO funding to deploy a seasonal trail crew to address stewardship needs as a result of increased recreation during the pandemic. The crew will lead volunteer trail maintenance teams, protect seasonal wildlife closures, educate trail users, and address maintenance backlogs on United States Forest Service lands in partnership with the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, including projects on Game Creek Trail and the Colorado Trail in Camp Hale. Trail and conservation projects will occur on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, Eagle County Open Space, and local municipality managed lands. Finally, the crew will help build a new connector trail linking two major trail systems in Eagle. 

Transaction Cost Assistance Program, $500,000 grant to Keep It Colorado

Keep It Colorado will develop and administer a transaction costs assistance program that supports land trusts in completing conservation easements in fiscal year 2021. Transaction costs pose a barrier for many landowners to engage in a conservation option, and soaring real estate prices only exacerbate the problem by creating ever more lucrative options for landowners. Keep It Colorado’s proposed solution is to create an accessible pool of funding and a process to select the projects demonstrating the greatest urgency and conservation outcomes. This will support more land trusts and landowners across Colorado and better leverage more of the state’s conservation easement tax credit. Keep It Colorado hopes to fund between 10‐12 projects through this investment.

Troublesome Fire Hiking and Mountain Biking Trails Recovery, $36,000 grant to Grand Lake Metro Rec District (GLMRD)

This funding will support GLMRD and the surrounding area in the wake of the East Troublesome fire. GLMRD will partner with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps (RMYC) to clear burned trees from roads and trails, remove hazard trees to mitigate future fire risk, and restore and reroute trails. This project will focus on 46 acres at the Grand Lake Golf Course and an additional 79 acres of roads and trails nearby. The RMYC crew will work for four weeks beginning in May with the goal of reopening the course and surrounding trails sometime this summer. These efforts are a piece of an ongoing recovery initiative to address impacts of both the fire and COVID-19. Prior to the fire, Grand Lake’s outdoor spaces and trail system saw record crowds due to the pandemic.

Virginia Canyon Mountain Park Trails, $100,000 grant to City of Idaho Springs

The City of Idaho Springs will use its grant to begin development of a trail network at Virginia Canyon Mountain Park. The pandemic has highlighted the need for more close-to-home recreation opportunities for area residents, as there are currently no formal hiking or biking trails within city limits. This first phase will begin construction of 10 miles of trail. Proposed features include three short hiking and uphill biking segments, 3.25 miles of steep downhill biking trails, a bikes-only loop, 1.5 miles of hiking-only trails, and a central hub area where trails intersect. The main access point to the trail system will be at Rosa Gulch with a connector trail at the bottom leading to the Clear Creek Greenway. 

Generation Wild Funding

Garfield County Outdoors (GCO), $1,006,772 grant to Colorado State University

Since 2017, GCO, which was previously led by Garfield County and now by Colorado State University, has offered a variety of program opportunities for under-resourced youth in western Garfield County. Program focus areas include agriculture, hunting, fishing, paddling, archery, camping, snow sports, and climbing. These experiences are designed to be culturally relevant and locally focused, and have proved successful in eliminating barriers to the outdoors such as lack of time, knowledge, and access to gear. GCO and its partners have also created mentorship, internship, and job training opportunities for area youth to develop leadership skills and explore pathways to future careers in the outdoors. 

With this funding commitment, GCO hopes to expand its programs to engage more youth across the county and provide more pathways opportunities to encourage exploration of future careers in the outdoors. Funds will also be used to expand access to gear and transportation and support necessary staff capacity as the coalition continues to grow. 

Westy POWER-PODER, $993,228 grant to City of Westminster

Since 2017, Westy POWER-PODER and its partners, including the City, Westminster Public Schools, the Butterfly Pavilion, and Growing Home, have worked to provide culturally relevant outdoor experiences, increase exposure to the outdoors, and promote future careers in natural resources. The coalition’s programs include field trips for elementary students, after-school clubs focused on environmental education and outdoor leadership, and low-cost summer camps. Older youth also have opportunities to participate in mentorship, internship, and job training programs. The City of Westminster and the Butterfly Pavilion both offer paid internships for high school students to explore future careers and gain experience in horticulture, open space, and nature interpretation. 

With this funding commitment, the coalition plans to expand its services to reach under-resourced youth and families city-wide, improve outreach and engagement with the Spanish-speaking community, and develop new strategies to work more effectively within Westminster Public Schools. The coalition will also evaluate and revamp its program offerings, including an expanded after-school program, more internship opportunities, and more summer activities. Funding will also support increased staff capacity, which will help the coalition meet the goals set for the upcoming years and achieve its diversity, equity, and inclusion objectives. 

Fellowship Funding

Colorado Open Lands (COL), $127,740 grant

The COL fellow will receive on-the-job training in a wide range of land and water conservation projects across the state, from the protection of large private ranches and important wildlife habitats, to smaller community-focused projects involving public access and land stewardship. Senior staff members in the Salida office will mentor the fellow and encourage participation in all areas of the organization’s work.  

Montezuma Land Conservancy (MLC), $132,715 grant

In recent years, MLC has expanded its focus from traditional land conservation transactions to include community engagement programs through the organization’s education center, Fozzie’s Farm, and its role in leading the Montezuma Inspire Coalition, part of Generation Wild. To support this evolution, MLC plans to work with a specialist in conservation communications to improve its outreach to donors, members, and the general public. The GOCO-supported fellow will use the strategies and findings from this effort to build a more robust communications and marketing campaign for the organization. 

Trust for Public Land (TPL), $300,000 grant

This funding will support the hiring of two fellows to work on TPL’s outreach efforts in Denver’s southwest and northeast neighborhoods and in the southeast community of Colorado Springs. This effort is part of the organization’s larger Community Outreach with Resident Experts (CORE) program. TPL aims to listen to and engage with local residents in order to collectively envision and create the outdoor spaces the communities need to thrive. TPL and its partners will identify rising leaders from the areas and hire fellows with a passion for community engagement and a belief in the transformational effects of equitable access to the outdoors. With mentorship from community partners, fellows will work with residents to determine priorities and advance park, trail, and green infrastructure projects in their own neighborhoods. Fellows will also work closely with youth cohorts in their regions and serve as a liaison between TPL and the broader communities. 

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.