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GOCO Board awards $500K for 16 youth corps projects across the state

Tuesday, December 10, 2019 -- GOCO
December 10, 2019

DENVER – Today, the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board awarded a total of $500,000 in Youth Corps grants to 16 projects that will reduce wildfire risk, protect water resources, improve wildlife habitat, repair parks and trails, build new trails to enjoy, and remove invasive species. The funding will support five miles of riparian restoration work and six miles of trail work across the state.

GOCO awards Youth Corps funding through the Colorado Youth Corps Association (CYCA), which 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. 

The GOCO-funded projects will significantly impact Colorado’s natural resources while employing young people and providing them with a path to higher education and economic independence.

"CYCA's partnership with GOCO not only addresses the critical land and water needs of local communities across the state, it will transform the lives of hundreds of conservation corps members,” CYCA Executive Director Scott Segerstrom said. “This investment by GOCO will help develop young leaders who become first-generation college students, launch natural resource careers, and most importantly, believe in the power of service to change the world.”

GOCO funding for youth corps work increases the capacity of local governments and nonprofits to address pressing conservation and stewardship needs. 

Funded projects are as follows:

Alamosa Riparian Park, Alamosa City Ranch, Malm Trail, $16,600 grant to the City of Alamosa 

The City of Alamosa will use its GOCO funding to hire Southwest Conservation Corps crews to construct new trails and improve existing trails at Alamosa Riparian Park, at Alamosa City Ranch, and on the city’s south side. Alamosa has expanded its trail network in recent years, creating additional, ongoing need for care and maintenance.    

Box Cañon Falls Park Trail Repair and Beautification Project, $14,600 grant to the City of Ouray

With its GOCO grant, the City of Ouray will hire Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) crews to restore trails, remove old fences, thin limbs and brush, add check dams to assist with drainage, and repair a retaining wall at Box Cañon Falls. Crew members will also identify areas in need of updated interpretive signage to enhance visitors’ learning experience. Efforts by the City and SCC will help ensure visitors continue to enjoy a safe, enjoyable recreation experience at the park. 

Brush Creek Valley Ranch Fence Removal and Trail Reroute, $15,200 grant to Eagle County

Eagle County will hire crews from Rocky Mountain Youth Corps (RMYC) to make updates to Brush Creek Valley Ranch and Open Space. Based on recommendations from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, RMYC corps members will remove outdated, barbed wire fences and replace them with wildlife-friendly, high-tensile fencing. In addition, crews will construct a trail to connect users to nearby BLM lands. 

City of Thornton Big Dry Creek Russian Olive Removal, $25,000 grant to the City of Thornton

With the help of GOCO funding, the City of Thornton will employ chainsaw crews from Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) to continue Russian olive removal at Big Dry Creek open space. Thornton and Adams County previously received funding for four weeks of work to remove invasive species from 293 acres of open space. Phase two will allow crews to remove the invasives from an additional 250 acres. MHYC will eradicate all remaining Russian olive from the open space corridor to improve the overall health and stability of Big Dry Creek. It will also promote the biodiversity of native vegetation, which is critical for wildlife habitat.

Crested Butte Open Space Fencing and Noxious Weed Stewardship Project, $25,600 grant to Crested Butte Land Trust (CBLT)

With this GOCO grant, CBLT will hire Western Colorado Conservation Corps (WCCC) crews to treat areas overrun with noxious weeds across 20 miles of trail and more than 100 acres of remote terrain on conserved lands. The work will support the land trust’s larger effort to create a long-term, noxious weed management plan and help restore the natural landscape of Crested Butte’s trails and open spaces. In addition, WCCC crews will help rebuild CBLT-maintained cattle exclusion fences, repairing wire breaks and broken posts, which have been damaged by heavy snowfall in recent years.

East Plum Creek Restoration, $37,000 grant to Douglas County Conservation District

Douglas County Conservation District will use its GOCO funding to hire Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) crews to restore eroded sections of once-healthy areas of East Plum Creek. Overgrazing of cattle accelerated erosion and diminished the quality of the wildlife habitat on the property. In addition, road construction near the creek inhibited the soil’s ability to retain moisture needed to support native plants and hold the banks together. To restore soil quality and help restore the ecosystem, crews will remove invasive species, such as Russian olive trees, and revegetate the 42-acre area with native plant species. 

Elkhorn Creek Forest Health Initiative, $51,200 grant to Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS)

CSFS will partner with the Elkhorn Creek Forest Health Initiative and Larimer County Conservation Corps to reduce fire hazards through thinning, pile burning, and prescribed fire treatments at Ben Delatour Scout Ranch. CSFS aims to outline a plan to help build capacity within neighboring communities to assist with future forest health maintenance and wildfire mitigation efforts. 

East Big Thompson River Invasive Species Removal and Mitigation Project, $18,000 grant to the City of Loveland

The City of Loveland will use its grant to treat and remove invasive species such as Russian olive, Siberian elm, and tamarisk in the 140-acre East Big Thompson River corridor. Larimer County Conservation Corps chainsaw crews will cut invasive trees to ground level and treat the area with herbicide to prevent re-growth. The work will improve wetland habitat along the river corridor and provide optimal conditions for native trees, shrubs, and underlying vegetation to recover. 

Garden of the Gods & Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, $27,000 grant to the City of Colorado Springs

With the help of GOCO funding, the City of Colorado Springs will hire crews from Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) to treat a 17.5-acre area of Garden of the Gods Park for noxious weed species and distribute seed mix to encourage the growth of native grasses. MHYC’s work will help restore the natural resources in and around the park, support the city’s long-term noxious weed prevention plan, and promote the importance of conservation efforts in the region’s most visited park.

GGP Seasonal Garden for Community Education, $15,200 grant to the Town of Pagosa Springs 

The Town of Pagosa Springs will use its GOCO funding to hire a camping crew from Southwest Conservation Corps to work on the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (GGP) public education facilities in Centennial Park for two weeks. Work will include building 140 feet of wildlife fencing, planting native species to promote pollinator and bird habitat, and planting seedlings of the federally-endangered Pagosa skyrocket. 

Restoration Plan for the Monument Corridor, $36,000 grant to Colorado West Land Trust (CWLT)

With the help of the GOCO grant, CWLT will hire Western Colorado Conservation Corps for restoration work in Monument Corridor open space. Corps members will treat and remove invasive vegetation along the trail corridor, plant and seed native species, clear debris, and help plant a demonstration garden at Lunch Loop Trailhead. Construction of the nearby Lunch Loop Connector Trail recently disturbed the invasive species, presenting an opportunity to restore the area with native species. Treating and removing the invasive vegetation will ensure a better experience for trail users, protect nearby wetlands, and reduce wildfire risk.

Riverside Park Open Space Restoration, $47,400 grant to the City of Evans

With the help of GOCO funding, the City of Evans will hire crews from Weld County Youth Conservation Corps to restore areas of Riverside Park Open Space that were damaged during the 2013 floods. The entire park was closed for five years but reopened to the public in 2018 after significant restoration work. An eight-acre area at the west end of the park was not restored and is now significantly overgrown. Crews will work for eight weeks to cut and chip excess vegetation and prepare the area for public access. 

Russian Olive Removal Project, $34,000 grant to the City of Lakewood

The City of Lakewood will employ Mile High Youth Corps to plant native trees and shrubs, remove invasive weeds, and seed native grass along the Bear Creek Greenbelt. The work marks a new phase of restoration efforts by the partners, which have worked to remove 100 percent of the invasive Russian olive tree species in the area since 2013. Additionally, crews will install fencing in restored areas and plant wetland vegetation to support species diversity and improve water quality.

Russian Olive Tree Removal, $27,000 grant to Foothills Park and Recreation District (FHPRD)

Over the last four years, FHPRD has hired Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) to assist with the large-scale removal of Russian olive trees on various properties within the district. With its GOCO grant, FHPRD will partner again with MYHC to build on these eradication efforts and remove more than 1,000 Russian olive trees from 81 acres of wetland habitat on the Meadows Greenbelt and Dutch Creek Drainage property.

SpringCreek Park Restoration Work, $15,200 grant to the Town of Brookside

With the help of GOCO funding, Mile High Youth Corps will assist with clearing debris, including tree trunks, branches, and other vegetation that prevent mowing of the area and pose a potential fire threat. Corps members will also help rebuild and seal the perimeter fence, rebuild the pedestrian bridge and park benches, repaint the property’s shed and vault restroom, and perform trail restoration work. 

Steamboat Springs Trail Project, $35,000 grant to the City of Steamboat Springs

With the help of GOCO funding, the City of Steamboat Springs will employ crews from Rocky Mountain Youth Corps (RMYC) for trail building and restoration work. At Spring Creek Pond Loop Trail, RMYC corps members will build and restore trail at the area’s upper pond. At Emerald Mountain, crews will reroute 1,500 feet of the Prayer Flag Trail, which was built 25 years ago and has become badly eroded. Just outside of downtown, RMYC crews will build the first official trail at Rita Valentine Park to discourage the creation and use of social trails.

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 5,000 projects in all 64 counties of Colorado without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.