DENVER – Today the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board awarded more than $1.3 million in funding to 17 projects across the state.
The majority of this funding, totaling $1.2 million, was awarded through the inaugural round of GOCO’s Stewardship Impact Grants, which aim to increase on-the-ground stewardship outcomes statewide through funding for collaborative, targeted stewardship projects. This program is the culmination of a multi-year effort by GOCO and the Colorado Outdoor Stewardship Coalition to create a foundational framework for advancing volunteer-based stewardship in Colorado communities. Grantees will use GOCO funds to address immediate stewardship needs, as well as develop partner-focused stewardship programs to build a community stewardship ethic.
These projects will address some of the state’s most immediate stewardship needs, including critical trail work on Mount Elbert, habitat restoration for the Gunnison sage grouse, and enhancement of the Fisher’s Peak and Crazy French Ranch area in Trinidad.
GOCO also awarded more than $132,616.22 through the Director’s Innovation Fund (DIF), a partnership between GOCO and CPW to create a funding source for one-time, innovative projects that would not otherwise receive funding from either organization. CPW receives half of GOCO’s funding each year for statewide programs, wildlife, and state parks through an annual investment proposal, however many innovative, small-dollar projects fall outside current funding parameters.
This round of DIF projects will pilot innovative wildlife management methods, provide visitors with better experiences at state parks, promote outdoor safety and education, and establish a plan to mitigate wildlife-vehicle collisions.
Engaging Private Landowners of Conserved Properties to Create Resilient Landscapes, $111,854 grant to Colorado West Land Trust
Wildfire mitigation is often heavily focused on public lands, and private landowners sometimes lack the technical expertise and financial resources to protect their properties from fire. To address this problem, Colorado West Land Trust, in partnership with the West Region Wildfire Council, has designed a program to educate and equip private landowners with land protection resources. The first step in this process will be to identify specific private, conserved properties in high wildfire risk areas. Then, landowners will be advised about forest treatment options as well as technical and financial resources to improve forest health and fire resilience.
Gunnison County Stewardship Program, $350,000 grant to Gunnison County
Gunnison County boasts over 75,000 acres of conserved open space property managed by local municipalities and land conservancies. The development of a county-wide stewardship program will address issues associated with the recent influx of visitors to the area’s publicly accessible properties through a new and collaborative stewardship model. The program will target several immediate stewardship needs, including restoring key habitat for the Gunnison sage grouse, decommissioning hundreds of illegal campsites and designating new spaces with appropriate infrastructure, and installing sanitation facilities at key trailheads.
Mount Elbert Collaborative Stewardship Project, $300,000 grant to Lake County
Mount Elbert is the highest peak in Colorado and is among the top five most-visited 14ers in the state with over 25,000 annual use days. In partnership with the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (CFI), Get Outdoors Leadville! (GOL!), the National Forest Foundation, and the U.S. Forest Service, the County plans to address significant trail sustainability issues and alpine tundra restoration needs caused by overuse. Anticipated outcomes include restoring or rerouting more than one and a half miles of high-elevation trails, including two of the main routes to the mountain’s summit, as well as restoring areas where runoff from poor trail construction has led to significant erosion of sensitive alpine tundra soil and vegetation.
North Cheyenne Canon Park and Stratton Open Space Conservation Stewardship Program, $151,850 grant to the City of Colorado Springs
In partnership with Rocky Mountain Field Institute and Friends of Cheyenne Cañon, the City plans to restore several hundred acres of open space and parkland at North Cheyenne Cañon Park and Stratton Open Space; decommission several miles of unofficial, user-made “social trails”; and build a more sustainable connector trail to discourage the development of future social trails. The City will engage community volunteers and youth to accomplish the work with the goal of maintaining the volunteer base for future stewardship projects.
Purgatoire Watershed Restoration and Recreation Enhancement Project, $286,296 grant to the City of Trinidad
The City of Trinidad will invest its GOCO funding in developing the Purgatoire Watershed Outdoor Stewardship Program, designed by a coalition of statewide and local partners with the goal of prioritizing stewardship projects in the Trinidad area. The program aims to engage the local community, including people of all ages, backgrounds, and skill levels, and convey the importance of stewardship, reinforcing the idea of stewardship as a community effort and expanding the pool of available stewards for future projects. Immediate stewardship needs include enhancing 150 acres of the Fisher’s Peak and Crazy French Ranch area and facilitating habitat restoration and recreational trail stewardship on city-owned park spaces along the Purgatoire River.
Agents of Discovery, $17,982 grant to CPW Statewide
Augmented reality (AR) uses technology to superimpose information such as sounds, images, and text on the world we see. CPW’s AR pilot program will invest in Agents of Discovery, a free mobile-based game that is already utilized in over 50 U.S. Forest Service areas and numerous parks internationally. By creating and implementing the program, State Parks will be able to provide more timely information about what is happening in the parks and create relevant experiences to reach broader and more diverse audiences. The 10 parks selected for the program are Barr Lake State Park, Chatfield State Park, Eleven Mile State Park, Cherry Creek State Park, Staunton State Park, St. Vrain State Park, Trinidad Lake State Park, Cheyenne Mountain State Park, Ridgway State Park, and Steamboat Lake State Park.
Bat Acoustic Monitoring, $7,234.90 grant to CPW Statewide
Bats are important to Colorado’s ecosystems, but very little data exists on their presence and habitat use in state parks. CPW intends to create both mobile and stationary data collection units to monitor bats’ behavior, roosting, and hibernation patterns. With the help of a bat-naturalist volunteer, park visitors will be invited to participate in the data collection process, and will be provided with ultrasonic microphones that pair with a smartphone app. The project is a partnership with CPW’s wildlife biologists, education sections, and multiple wildlife areas and state parks.
Colorado Transportation Alliance, $20,000 grant to CPW Statewide
Colorado is home to several of the largest herds of migratory elk and mule deer in North America and experiences a high rate of wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs) on its highways. In June 2017 CPW and CDOT hosted the first Colorado Wildlife and Transportation Summit and developed an action plan to begin to address WVCs in Colorado. The agencies created the Alliance to implement the action plan. In 2018, a Steering Committee was formed for the Alliance, including CDOT, CPW, Southern Ute Tribe, Colorado Federal Highway Administration, sportsmen’s groups, engineers, and biologists. The Alliance Steering Committee has been sharing resources and knowledge, mobilizing communities, securing project funding, and raising awareness around WVCs and wildlife connectivity. The group's action plan priorities for 2019-2020 include: advancing a West Slope Wildlife (Crossing) Prioritization Study, identifying short- and long-term funding, hosting Wildlife and Transportation Workshops and joint CDOT/CPW workshops, performing general public outreach, engaging partners, promoting internal policies and procedures to address WVCs, and creating a statewide data hub to share information.
Durango Outdoor Understanding for Teachers (OUT), $6,800 grant to CPW Southwest region
Finding funding can be an obstacle for schools interested in planning field trips. The Durango Outdoor Understanding for Teachers (Durango OUT) Field Trip Incentive Program will be open to K-12 teachers who participate in Durango OUT, CPW’s conservation-focused professional development institute. OUT-qualified teachers and their students will be connected to science education field-trips, partnering with Durango Nature Studies, Mancos State Park, the Durango Fish Hatchery, The Nature Center at Butler Corner, and others. GOCO funds will help fray the costs of fees and transportation. The program will cover the expenses for one field trip visit for each OUT teacher’s grade level.
Flat Water Program, $12,457.47 grant to Yampa River State Park
Yampa River State Park is home to many ecosystems and offers visitors 130 miles of river access and recreation opportunities. GOCO funding will help CPW purchase a raft, trailer, and associated equipment to institute various float programs on the Yampa River. Educational programs will include interpretive wildlife watching, introduction to float fishing, and introduction to paddling and rafting. The float programs are free and designed to engage visitors and provide access to recreation activities that may be expensive or intimidating. The project brought together partners from the Town of Hayden, Friends of the Yampa, Craig Chamber of Commerce, Yampa River System Legacy Project, Bureau of Land Management, and Good Vibes River Gear.
Hammock Campsite Project, $14,500 grant to Jackson Lake State Park
Jackson Lake State Park provides its visitors with more than 250 campsites. While many visitors currently enjoy sites equipped with electric and sewer hookups, a growing number of recreationalists choose to camp at basic sites with tents and hammocks. Hammock camping has increased in popularity but can cause damage to trees and surrounding natural resources. To address this problem, CPW will upgrade four existing Pelican Campsites to include individually raised camp pads where guests can utilize hammocks and tents with no impact to surrounding vegetation. CPW will also purchase 16 Eagle Nest Outfitters (ENO) hammock systems to loan to unequipped visitors interested in hammock camping.
Hunter Education Trailer, $5,056.35 grant to CPW Area 10
Area 10 of CPW, which covers Routt and Jackson counties, will help build an enclosed hunter education trailer to host classes on the role of hunting in conservation. The mobile classroom will allow CPW to broaden its education efforts and further its mission of ensuring the sustainability of Colorado’s wildlife and their habitats. Classes will provide information on hunting license application processes, safety and ethics, wildlife laws and regulations, and other information. The project brought together partners from Steamboat Lake State Park, Stagecoach State Park, and State Forest State Park.
Remote Cameras for Wildlife Estimations, $19,549.50 grant to CPW Terrestrial Section Southeast
Big game herds are a valuable resource to our state’s ecosystems and outdoor enthusiasts. However, because of development and land use changes in the Castle Rock area, limited data exists to inform management of the Castle Rock elk herd. The funding awarded to CPW’s Terrestrial branch will provide the equipment needed to detect elk presence, collect biological data, and guide the allocation of hunting licenses. The new equipment, which includes remote cameras and passive detectors, provides a non-invasive and cost-effective method for collecting wildlife data. Project partners include Douglas County Open Space and Natural Resource Division and the Highlands Ranch Community Association.
Shalberg Pond Windmill Aerator, $2,340 grant to CPW Aquatic Section Southeast
Shalberg Pond is a public fishing area located in the town of Sheridan Lake, Colo. Though the one-acre pond has seen improvements over the years, its current lack of oxygenated water makes it less than ideal fish habitat. With its GOCO grant, CPW’s Southeast Aquatic branch plans to purchase and install a windmill and other equipment to aerate the pond. The compressed air that will flow through the pond will allow more aquatic vegetation to grow, promoting healthier habitat. When fully functional, Shalberg Pond will accommodate an estimated 500 angler days per year and provide the public with better recreational opportunities.
Time Lapse Camera for Storytelling, $1,000 grant to CPW Statewide
CPW’s Grant Unit will purchase two all-weather, time-lapse cameras for a storytelling pilot initiative. The time-lapse recordings will help anglers, hunters, park visitors, and wildlife viewers better understand and appreciate the investments CPW makes in Colorado’s outdoors and the unique benefits of CPW outdoor recreation and natural resource projects. One camera will have the capability to record long-term projects (lasting from weeks to months), while the other will capture shorter-term shots (daily to multi-day). Videos will be posted on CPW’s website and also on partner organization websites, adding another tool to help “tell the story” of wildlife management and outdoor recreation.
Two Buttes SWA Habitat Enhancement, $5,696 grant to CPW Area 12
Two Buttes State Wildlife Area in southeastern Colorado is a popular hunting destination and bird watching area. It is also home to many species of wildlife, including mule deer, white tail deer, bobcats, coyotes, scaled quail, doves, turkeys, raptors, songbirds, and rabbits. Area 12 will use its GOCO grant to create a diverse habitat where the animals can flourish. The wildlife area will plant Eastern Red Cedar trees and American Plum trees and add weed prevention fabric and rabbit guards. CPW plans to engage youth from the local 4H chapter as volunteers for the work.
White River Algae Study, $20,000.00 grant to CPW Area 6
The funding awarded to Area 6, which includes Rio Blanco County, will provide the resources needed to research, document, and manage Cladophora overgrowth, which is impacting the water quality of the White River and fouling irrigation pumps in nearby towns. The algae overgrowth is also affecting fishing and the area’s natural landscape. CPW’s research will focus on understanding the timing and occurrence of algal blooms and the physical and chemical properties influencing its growth. The research will provide CPW with the information needed to sustain the White River Basin’s native fish populations and watershed health and improve the river’s water quality.
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 5,200 projects in urban and rural areas in all 64 counties without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.