Dolores Garden in Montezuma County. Photo by moxie82inc.
DENVER - Today the GOCO board committed a total of $15,486,389 to 10 Generation Wild communities across Colorado. This funding is part of GOCO’s Generation Wild program, previously known as the Inspire Initiative, which launched in 2015 to support community-based coalitions in breaking down barriers to the outdoors through new places to play, outdoor programs and activities, and employment opportunities in the outdoors.
The coalitions, which work to identify unique local barriers to the outdoors and devise solutions to address them, are comprised of diverse groups of partners, including local governments, schools, health-based organizations, and youth-serving nonprofits that have come together to achieve shared goals. They are elevating youth voices; delivering accessible, culturally relevant programming; and promoting equitable access to the outdoors. Collectively, the more than 470 partnering organizations have run 2,140 programs and impacted 40,000 youth, contributing to a larger youth-and-outdoors movement statewide and across the country.
To date, GOCO has invested $40.4 million in the program, including $25 million in the past five years and $15.4 million in new funding for 10 coalitions. In addition, GOCO has invested a $4 million grant from the Colorado Health Foundation, a $75,000 grant for rural communities from the Boettcher Foundation, and a $50,000 donation from DaVita in the movement.
Funded coalitions include:
Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement (EVOM), $310,000 commitment to Eagle County
Supported by Eagle County, EVOM partners, including the coordinating organization Walking Mountains Science Center and 13 additional program providers, will use the GOCO funds to continue to offer engaging educational programs during the school day and out-of-school hours for area youth in preschool through twelfth grade. The group aims to expand its outdoor education school programs to all schools and grade levels in Eagle County and also increase family activities. Partners will provide opportunities for outdoor exploration and adventure, including camping, hiking, rock climbing, and learning wilderness survival skills.
The coalition will strengthen its community-centered approach to ensure its programs respond to community needs and reinforce its focus on encouraging underrepresented youth to explore the possibilities of future careers in the outdoors. To do so, EVOM will build on its internship and leadership development offerings in which high school students learn to apply outdoor skills and become outdoor leaders.
Generation Wild Northeast Metro Coalition (GWNEMC), $1,991,889 commitment to City of Commerce City
Together with the City of Commerce City, City of Aurora, and City and County of Denver, GWNEMC’s partner organizations work together to provide outdoor recreation activities and environmental education for youth and families. To date, the coalition has delivered 800 programs for area youth and families. In addition, they offer pathway opportunities, which are internships and employment in outdoor recreation, wildlands, and conservation.
GWNEMC will use the new Generation Wild funding to continue to serve highest-need communities at a deeper level and expand coalition programs to additional schools and neighborhoods. The coalition will offer a wide array of programs, from after-school programs to weekend field trips and adventure clubs. Youth and community members will be able to participate in family nature events in their local parks and natural areas. Funds awarded will also provide the coalition with capacity support needed to coordinate the large coalition and support a youth council that helps inform coalition direction.
Program partners include Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver, Bluff Lake Nature Center, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Mile High Youth Corps, Environmental Learning for Kids, The Urban Farm, Sand Creek Regional Greenway Partnership, Groundwork Denver, and US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Generation Wild of the Pikes Peak Region (GWPPR), $1,000,000 commitment to City of Colorado Springs
Supported by the City of Colorado Springs, GWPPR works with community-based organizations to bring to life a full spectrum of programs driving toward the primary goal: reconnect kids with nature and get them to experience the incredible benefits right outside their door. GWPPR’s funding will allow the coalition to offer new programming to the community through its partner organizations.
Through free and affordable programs, younger kids explore nature close to home or at their District 11 and Harrison School District 2 schools, and older kids experience adventure in Colorado’s backcountry. The coalition also provides paid internships and positions at partner organizations, providing young people the opportunity to develop teaching skills, learn about natural resources, and gain the skills needed to become camp counselors.
In the next phase, the community has expressed interest in more family and multi-generational programs, events, and activities. New funding will also support GWPPR in strengthening its community-led model to ensure the coalition is responsive to community needs and providing additional training for partners in topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion so they can better connect with community members.
Coalition partners include Catamount Institute, Rocky Mountain Field Institute, Kids on Bikes, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Colorado Springs Community Centers, UpaDowna, YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region, Mile High Youth Corps, Fountain Creek Watershed District, the Southeast RISE Coalition, Hillside Connection, and Blackpackers.
Get Outdoors Leadville! (GOL!), $1,500,000 commitment to Lake County
Supported by Lake County, Lake County Public Health Agency, and many other funders, GOL!’s 20 coalition partners, including Lake County School District, Colorado Mountain College (CMC), and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, provide youth with outdoor programs during the school year, after-school nature clubs and enrichments, summer camps, and winter sports opportunities. Students engage in programs related to environmental education and stewardship, place-based academic fieldwork, and outdoor recreation, including mountain biking, hiking, and fishing.
Close integration with the school district has allowed GOL! to help Lake County bring curriculum-driven, nature-based learning opportunities to Lake County’s 1,100 K-12 students and to offer partnership-driven, out-of-school-time programs year-round.
The new GOCO funding will support the Get Outdoors Leadville! coalition in continuing to offer its outdoor programs as well as paid internships for high school students and young adults. Internships include summer camp counselor positions, environmental science internships with CMC, and assisting with programs in GOL!’s gear lending library, which will open its permanent facility to the community in January 2021.
In the new phase of work, GOL! will use its Generation Wild funding to continue to serve the county’s diverse community and inspire deeper connections to nature. GOL! will improve upon the programs and experiences it has offered over the past four years, continuing to seek community input on its offerings as it works to ensure that nature-based learning and engaging outdoor experiences are a part of daily life for more Lake County youth and families. The coalition hopes to further amplify voices of community leaders and invite in more diverse leadership to better mirror the equity values and cultural responsiveness GOL! strives to embody while deepening community partnerships and program integration.
Montezuma Inspire Coalition (MIC), $2,250,000 commitment to Montezuma Land Conservancy
Since 2017, MIC, led by Montezuma Land Conservancy, has offered programs that fit into the school day, made transportation and gear for outdoor experiences more readily available, created opportunities to build outdoor knowledge and skills, and provided free activities for older youth in safe places. New GOCO funding will ensure continuity of these offerings and help MIC’s 11 partner organizations increase program participation.
Working closely with school districts in Dolores, Mancos, and Cortez, MIC has enhanced and developed integrated, standards-aligned outdoor programs and field trips for students. It has also implemented after-school and summer programs, including field trips and family activities, which expand from the backyard to the backcountry as youths grow older and their skills build.
MIC also created mentorship, internship, and job training opportunities for area youth to develop leadership skills and explore pathways to future careers in the outdoors. Moving forward the coalition expects to provide up to 88 pathway opportunities each year.
The coalition also aims to adapt or develop data-informed programming to expand its relevance to and impact on participants and also increase opportunities to engage the local Native American community.
My Outdoor Colorado (MOC), $3,000,000 commitment to City and County of Denver
Since 2016, in partnership with the City and County of Denver’s Parks and Recreation Department, two coalitions, MOC Westwood and MOC Cole, have worked to connect youth to the outdoors, fostering well being and an appreciation of nature. The coalitions, which have now merged, formed strategic partnerships with community-based organizations to provide youth with access to nature education, recreation, and skill building.
The coalition’s programs engage families, youth, and young adults in outdoor activities that meet their comfort levels, developmental stages, and growing outdoor skills and interests. Outdoor recreation offerings include hiking, snowshoeing, swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, rafting, and backpacking. The coalition also offers a range of family programs, such as Saturday family adventures, family nature clubs, and family camping trips.
With the new GOCO funding, the coalition’s 11 partnering entities will continue to deliver these equitable, culturally responsive outdoor programs. Youth will also have opportunities to work on stewardship projects, receive training and education in leading bilingual programs in the community, and earn certifications related to outdoor safety. The coalition will continue its pathway programs, which encourage youth to explore outdoor careers, through Mile High Youth Corps and other partners.
MOC will continue to serve as a model for the City and County of Denver, which plans to grow outdoor programs and pathway offerings within its Park and Recreation Department so that more marginalized youth and families within the community have access to positive outdoor experiences and job opportunities.
Nature Kids/Jóvenes de la Naturaleza (NKJN), $1,000,000 commitment to City of Lafayette
NKJN’s 39 partnering organizations, led by Thorne Nature Experience, help deliver programming for pre-K to high school aged youth, including classroom, afterschool, and field trip opportunities as well as summer experiences that range from summer camps to family programs. The coalition focuses on serving youth who attend five Boulder Valley School District schools: Sanchez, Pioneer, and Ryan Elementary Schools; Angevine Middle School; and Centaurus High School.
The new GOCO funding will support two more years of programming and provide resources to plan for expanding offerings to Longmont and Boulder. It will also help fund ongoing pathway programs, which encourage youth to explore the possibility of future careers in the outdoors.
With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the coalition is working to identify how it might pivot to provide nature- and outdoor-based childcare to support parents impacted by school closures and to offer older youth paid employment opportunities to help address the financial impacts on Lafayette youth and families.
SLV Generation Wild, $1,934,500 commitment to City of Alamosa
Since 2016, in partnership with the City of Alamosa and the Towns of Antonito, Creede, and Saguache, two coalitions, Recreation Inspires Opportunity (Alamosa RIO!) and San Luis Valley Inspire, have worked to connect Valley youth to the outdoors. The coalitions, which have now merged to streamline program opportunities for all ages and across all counties, formed strategic partnerships with community-based organizations to offer a range of outdoor programs to meet the needs of youth, from kindergarten to high-school ages.
They also created new pathways-to-employment opportunities for youth and young adults through internships, scholarships, and youth counselor positions, encouraging the next generation to consider careers in the outdoors and environmental education.
The new GOCO funding will allow the coalition to bolster community outreach efforts and provide diverse programming that aligns with the cultures, values, and goals of the community. The funding will enhance the coordination of the backyard-to-backcountry outdoor programs and address transportation barriers for under-resourced and under-represented youth to participate in them.
Sheridan Inspire, $1,500,000 commitment to City of Sheridan
Since 2016, Sheridan Inspire has been using GOCO funding to build on the momentum of a strong, diverse coalition of community-based partners that were already working to improve the lives of Sheridan youth and families. The group included Sheridan School District No. 2, South Suburban Parks and Recreation, Mile High Youth Corps, Earth Force, and Groundwork Denver.
The partner organizations have offered programs that teach self-reliance through engaging, hands-on, outdoor activities and are phased to focus on family participation (for youth ages 5-14), adventure (for youth ages 10-18), and jobs (for youth ages 13-24). Programs have connected families with resources, taught youth how to get to nearby outdoor places, and educated families on how to access Colorado’s great outdoors. Youth have also been exposed to experiences that could inspire future careers in the outdoors, including volunteer activities, skills training, and job opportunities.
With new GOCO funding, the coalition plans to increase community outreach and engagement to boost the visibility and cultural relevance of its programs; offer more family-oriented activities; improve safety of outdoor spaces; and respond to community-voiced desires for recreation opportunities in biking, gardening, summer day camps, and camping.
Additionally, the coalition aims to increase job placement of Sheridan youth in natural resource careers and increase the number of youth who receive outdoor education and natural resource skills training.
The Nature Connection (TNC), $1,000,000 commitment to Delta County
The new Generation Wild funding will help TNC continue to provide experiences that break down barriers to the outdoors through access to outdoor gear, which is often prohibitively expensive for too many families; school programs that get kids active and moving and building confidence to explore on their own; and activities that empower families throughout the year and deepen their connection to nature. With this additional funding, TNC will connect more families to a range of outdoor experiences, including cross-country skiing, biking, and water activities that highlight close-to-home recreation opportunities.
A major focus of The Nature Connection’s programming is promoting an ongoing, cohesive pathway of outdoor experiences for community youth. This starts with summer camps and the recently launched Learn to Bike program in elementary schools and continues with middle school summer adventures and popular cross country ski days getting over 1,000 kids on the Grand Mesa National Forest each winter. For high school youth, TNC offers river excursions and field trips that encourage youth to explore the possibility of future careers in the outdoors. In the summer, students from area high schools can apply for paid internships on trail crews, at summer camps, and in the local outdoor industry.
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.