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GOCO board awards more than $2 million in funding to support recreation, conservation, stewardship projects across Colorado during COVID-19

Thursday, September 24, 2020 -- GOCO
September 24, 2020

                                                                                                                 Mill Site Park in Marble, Colo. Photo courtesy of the Town of Marble. 

The GOCO board has awarded $2,095,315 in funding to 13 projects across the state through the Resilient Communities Program (RCP), which helps grantee partners advance outdoor recreation, stewardship, and land protection work. Funded projects will respond to one-time, immediate needs or opportunities that have emerged in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic all within the context of GOCO’s five program values: resource conservation, outdoor stewardship, community vitality, equitable access, and youth connections to the outdoors.

To date, the RCP has invested more than $3.4 million across 20 projects to help grantee partners contend with the impacts of COVID-19. Read about RCP funding awarded in June and August in this press release

Awarded funding will be used for many purposes, including to:

  • Employ youth to assist in the management of neighborhood parks and open spaces across northeast Denver
  • Address critical trail stewardship needs in Gunnison, Jefferson, and Mesa counties
  • Support community conservation and restoration projects
  • Increase equitable access to the outdoors among Garfield County’s Latinx communities
  • Build land trust capacity and expand partnerships and engagement efforts
  • Formalize river access at two sites in Alamosa
  • Develop additional park space and improve river access at the Town of Marble’s Mill Site Park

Projects include:

Conservation Stimulus, Rural Community Support, and Organizational Resiliency, $150,000 grant to Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT)

This GOCO funding will support CCALT in offering additive conservation projects, or additional services that complement conservation easements, to its vast network of landowners. These include restoration and enhancement work, ecosystem services, carbon markets, and other market-driven tools. The program will require additional staff capacity during development and to oversee any new conservation projects that result. Funding will also support CCALT’s first diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative, which will include working with a consultant to develop a framework that will be incorporated into the organization’s strategic plan and day-to-day operations. 

Evergreen Lake Community Response, $258,000 grant to Evergreen Park and Recreation District (EPRD)

EPRD will address critical stewardship needs at Evergreen Lake, including trail improvements, erosion control, and other maintenance. Since the pandemic began, recreation at the lake has more than doubled, while simultaneously, EPRD has had to lay off 150 employees. This dramatic increase in users combined with limited staff capacity has created several maintenance issues, including new social trails, shoreline erosion, and improper day-use areas. EPRD will rehire an Evergreen Lake manager, an outdoor specialist, and several park maintenance and stewardship staff to address these new areas of need. Funding will also support the final design of a lake-level perimeter trail, which will begin construction next year. 

Expanded Capacity for Prairie Restoration, $50,000 grant to Southern Plains Land Trust (SPLT)

With this funding, SPLT will hire a restoration manager to oversee restoration work on Heartland Ranch Nature Preserve, Raven’s Nest Nature Preserve, and other conserved properties. The land trust’s portfolio of conserved properties has grown from 3,000 acres a decade ago to more than 32,000 acres today. SPLT has traditionally relied on large volunteer programs to accomplish restoration work, but due to health and safety concerns, these programs have paused. This role brings value to SPLT and its conservation efforts and to the local community.

From Static Transactions to Dynamic Engagement, $72,377 grant to Montezuma Land Conservancy (MLC)

With this funding, MLC will continue work on its Community Values Assessment to inform a new strategic conservation plan. This assessment will collect input from community members, stakeholders, and partners on topics related to conservation values, recreation, wildlife, drought concerns, barriers to outdoor access, agriculture, youth employment, and more. Funding will also support exploration of a new farm conservation program to protect small, family-owned farms producing local fruits, vegetables, and meats. Finally, this grant will assist MLC in hiring a conservation fellow from the community. The fellow will lead outreach programs to stakeholders, develop tools to advance the small farms protection initiative, and help analyze community survey results.

Gilpin County Community Center Campus, $109,724 grant to Gilpin County

GOCO funding will help Gilpin County manage its community center campus, which includes the local fairgrounds, two ballfields, a playground, a BMX-style bike track, a community garden, and more. Before the center closed in March, it served as a local hub for events, after-school and senior programs, day camps and field trips, and other activities that contribute to community vitality. Funding will help the center reopen and support maintenance needs including weed management, fence installation, and new restrooms and trash receptacles. The center is supported through tax revenues from gaming, which fell short this year due to three months of casino closures. 

Lincoln Hills Cares Pathways, $60,837 grant to City and County of Denver, in partnership with Lincoln Hills Cares (LHC)

This funding will support LHC’s Pathways program, which provides youth employment opportunities focused on outdoor resource management and local food production. LHC will keep 20 youth associates and three youth leaders employed as the organization explores new partnerships with Denver Parks and Recreation this fall. The youth teams will assist in the management of neighborhood parks and open spaces across northeast Denver. Funding will also support LHC’s ongoing work in urban gardens in partnership with Mo Betta Green MarketPlace, an African-American-led, grassroots community health program.

Lower Church Lake Restoration, $122,132 grant to City of Westminster

The City of Westminster will add trails at Lower Church Lake Open Space with the help of GOCO funding. Since April, recreation across Westminster has quadrupled, increasing the need for additional trails for hikers to be able to socially distance. The City will build 1.8 miles of new trail, add a pollinator garden, and install new interpretive signage throughout the property. Additionally, the Lower Church property was used as a staging site during a recent Highway 36 project, and damaged natural resources require restoration. Other maintenance will include removing 300 feet of barbed wire fence, mitigating invasive species, and repainting a historic silo and barn.

Marble Millsite Alternative Entrance and Expansion, $333,000 grant to Town of Marble

The Town of Marble will expand Mill Site Park and improve access for residents and visitors. The park has also seen an uptick in visitation since the pandemic started, stressing the Town’s existing infrastructure and ability to host tourists safely. A 2.57-acre adjacent property is currently for sale, which the Town will purchase and develop as an extension of the park. Currently, Mill Site Park spans 25 acres and features an outdoor stage, basketball court, picnic areas, and a trail system. This additional acreage will help alleviate crowding, provide better access to the river, create an additional park entrance, and protect historic structures. 

Non-Motorized Trail Crew to Address Resource Degradation and Operational Support, $190,000 grant to Mesa County

In 2019, Mesa County Public Health formed a Trails Advisory Committee in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management, United States Forest Service, Colorado Plateau Mountain Biking Association, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Grand Valley Trails Alliance, Grand Junction Economic Partnership, Western Colorado Community Foundation, local municipalities, and several small businesses. With this funding, Mesa County and the Trails Advisory Committee will hire maintenance crews to address deteriorating conditions on non-motorized trails. The County and its partners have recorded more than 100 points of needed maintenance across all trails, which crews will address over a span of two years.

Prospect Park and Panorama Park Social-Distancing Amenities, $162,970 grant to City of Wheat Ridge

The City of Wheat Ridge will complete work on a fishing area at Prospect Park. The new fishing area will include a permanent dock, a shade shelter, two picnic tables, fencing, pathways, and trash receptacles. These amenities will improve fishing opportunities and alleviate the damage to the area caused by unregulated access. The project has been a top priority since the City was awarded another GOCO grant for park renovations in 2018, and the finished area will provide safe access for anglers of all ages and abilities.

Revitalize the Rio-Phase 1, $33,900 grant to City of Alamosa

The City of Alamosa will install two non-motorized boat ramps along the Rio Grande, one at the Alamosa City Ranch at the North River Pavilion and another at State Avenue Bridge. The ramps will be designed to provide safe access to the river and protect the riparian habitat. This will create a 2.74-mile stretch of floatable river in the heart of Alamosa, complete with interpretive signage and river maps. Currently, there are no formal access points to the river within city limits, which has resulted in multiple social trails and unsafe conditions. This project will build on other riparian projects happening in the region, including ongoing work at Alamosa Riparian Park, located just upstream of the proposed boating area. 

The Glenwood Springs Equitable Access and Emergency Parks Maintenance Project, $102,375 grant to City of Glenwood Springs

With this funding, the City of Glenwood Springs will undertake Adopt-a-Trail and Adopt-a-River initiatives in partnership with corporate and community service groups, hire two maintenance personnel to respond to requests, and purchase maintenance and sanitation supplies. In addition, to increase equitable access to the outdoors among the local Latinx community, the City will explore new partnerships with Latino Outdoors, print bilingual park maps and brochures, post signs with information about public health and safety in Spanish, and conduct a phone survey to solicit input about recreation needs.

The Gunnison County STOR Resilient Community Program, $450,000 grant to Gunnison County

Gunnison County will work closely with the multi-partner Sustainable Tourism and Outdoor Recreation (STOR) Committee to develop a comprehensive campaign that will address increased visitation as a result of the pandemic. Multiple trails across the county are in need of maintenance, including Slate River Trail, Hartman Rocks Recreation Area, and others. The County will also continue development of Shady Island River Park, which will include new campsites, recreation opportunities along the river, a picnic pavilion, a children’s play area, and bathrooms. Funding will also support the STOR conservation corps, which are maintenance crews that address a variety of stewardship needs in the Gunnison Valley. 

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.