Joe Davidson joined GOCO as a Youth Programs Fellow in 2014. Joe has helped craft the Inspire portion of our new strategic plan, which will help engage youth and get them outside.
What did you do before you came to GOCO?
I was a public school teacher for 5 years, teaching from 4th grade up through 12th: I worked in elementary, middle, and high schools.
Before that, I was a youth corps and outdoor education leader, working outdoors around the West.
What brought you to GOCO?
I became a teacher hoping to bring the experience of outdoor education to the broader audience of the students I worked with. I quickly found that even the schools with the best intentions of integrating outdoor education into their curriculum were often hard pressed to invest the time and lacked the expertise to get students outdoors. GOCO presented an opportunity to engage in this work at a systemic level!
What has been your favorite part of working here so far?
Professionally: I've spoken with program staff and leaders from the majority of outdoor and environmental organizations from across the state as part of our research and outreach in crafting our new youth initiative. It has provided amazing insight to have these behind-the-scenes conversations about the many efforts to connect youth with the outdoors.
General life-impacting awesomeness: Site visits to working ranches seeking conservation easements. You get off the main highway you've driven your whole life, and just a few miles down a dusty dirt road are ranchers living like pioneers, working the land. Their connection with place is amazing.
What is your typical day like?
My time is pretty balanced between the logistics of supporting the School Play Yard Initiative grant program, and meeting with folks from around the state as we design our new youth initiative. There is e-mail with grantees, grant reading, calls with folks interested in the grant program (actually a very fun part of the work, dreaming up the possibilities), data entry. That sort of thing.
What are some of your favorite things to do outdoors?
This is a hard question because in my college and post-college years I was able to spend significant time backpacking, rafting, hiking, and living outdoors for trail work and outdoor education. Living in the city now, the mountains are so close, but I have trouble motivating to get out there. It is definitely easier to find time for adventure when you are being paid to do it full time!
So, I really rely on the nearby-nature opportunities of the metro area. Cycling is probably my favorite, exploring the great network of multi-use trails.
Where is your favorite place to get outdoors in Colorado?
There are some very accessible alpine hikes and backpacking opportunities within an hour of Denver along the I70 corridor. Where? Well... all along it! Chicago Creek Trail outside of Idaho Springs is a go-to. Same for Greys and Torreys and the Herman and Grizzly Gulch trailheads just East of Eisenhower Tunnel.
Sand Dunes National Park would be my must-visit recommendation. It is ridiculously fun just playing on the dunes, launching off the mini-cliffs, and building miniature dams and canals in Medano Creek at the base. Parks are often look-but-don't-touch. At the Sand Dunes the views are amazing, but it's also a huge playground. I resonate with the whole San Luis Valley, in an alternate life that's where I run my llama-ranch hot-spring commune. Or maybe that's just what I do after GOCO. We'll have to see!