DENVER – Today the GOCO board awarded a total of $1,000,000 to support 23 stewardship and recreation projects across Colorado. These grants are part of GOCO’s conservation service corps program, run in partnership with Colorado Youth Corps Association (CYCA), to employ youth corps crews across the state on outdoor recreation and stewardship projects.
CYCA represents a statewide coalition of eight accredited corps that train youth, young adults, and veterans to complete land and water conservation work and gain professional skills. Corps members earn a stipend and an AmeriCorps education award to use toward college or reducing existing student loans.
Since the establishment of GOCO’s youth corps support in 2011, the board has invested nearly $7 million in combined local government and open space purpose funds. This investment has provided 10,435 young adults with the opportunity to participate in 205 projects, complemented by 21,782 hours of environmental and career-building education by sponsoring agencies. In addition, 1,085 corps-members have earned AmeriCorps Education Awards totaling $2,320,662 with many more current year participants anticipating awards prior to the end of the year.
Corps members play a critical role in the stewardship and maintenance of Colorado’s parks, trails, and open spaces, which continue to experience impacts from high use and visitation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Land managers work with local corps to provide recreational amenities like new campgrounds and trails while also restoring heavily impacted areas.
Funding from this cycle will provide conservation and stewardship support in 18 counties by restoring seven miles of riverbank corridor, completing 35 miles of trail work, addressing forest health issues on 2,964 acres, and tackling invasive species removal on 382 acres.
Wheat Ridge Greenbelt Fire Fuel Management, $61,650 to the City of Wheat Ridge
With GOCO funding, City of Wheat Ridge Parks and Recreation will partner with Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) crews to work with City forestry professionals to cut, chip, and remove invasive species and woody debris from within the 300-acre Wheat Ridge Greenbelt. The six-week project will improve ecological health and reduce fire risk within the Greenbelt while providing MHYC crews with educational experience in conservation work focused on wildfire mitigation techniques, invasive species control, urban forestry, and open space management.
High Line Canal Restoration Through Russian Olive Mapping and Mitigation, $41,000 to High Line Canal Conservancy
With this funding, the High Line Canal Conservancy will partner with MHYC crews to inventory and remove invasive Russian olive trees from the canal corridor. The four-week project will build on Russian olive mitigation efforts initiated in 2022. Over four weeks crews will address a 5.5-mile gap in the previously treated area, completing treatment along a continuous, 27-mile-long stretch. The work will improve the overall ecological health and resiliency of the corridor. Invasive trees strain limited water resources and outcompete desired vegetation.
Trail Build, Thinning, and Invasive Species Control, $29,225 to Lake Fork Valley Conservancy
Colorado Open Lands and Lake Fork Valley Conservancy will use their grant to partner with Southwest Conservation Corps-Los Valles (SCC-LV) crews for three weeks, developing an educational campground at Lake Fork Earth & Sky Center. Crews will build 1.5 miles of new trail and thin one acre of forest for wildfire mitigation, forest health, and access. Crews will also help develop an observatory site at Slumgullion Pass Observatory Site by removing abandoned camping remains, thinning and clearing dead trees and debris, and treating and removing Canadian thistle at the five-acre US Forest Service Site.
GMF Healthy Forest, $82,200 to the Town of Green Mountain Falls
Green Mountain Falls is one of the highest fire risk zones in Colorado. Working with the local fire protection district and private landowners, the town will partner with Mile High Youth Corps-Southern Front Range (MHYC-SFR) crews for eight weeks to advance efforts to build a continuous, two-mile-long fuel break around the community. Crews will conduct thinning and fuel reduction across an estimated 8-12 acres to restore this public open space into a more aesthetically pleasing, park-like environment that exhibits a healthy native habitat and supports local wildlife. The work builds upon previous efforts leveraging Colorado Strategic Wildfire Action Program (COSWAP) funding and conservation service corps crews.
Interpretive Trail Rehabilitation, $26,025 to La Plata Open Space Conservancy
La Plata Open Space Conservancy will use its $26,025 grant to partner with Southwest Conservation Corps-Four Corners (SCC-FC) crews for three weeks of work at the Durango Nature Center. Due to the pandemic, trails at the center are overgrown with vegetation and have been impacted by flooding and erosion. Crews will assist with drainage work, trail rehabilitation, and installation of interpretive signage, improving resident and visitor experiences there.
Elkhorn Creek Forest Health Initiative, $65,275 to Larimer County
Larimer County Office of Emergency Management will partner with Larimer County Conservation Corps (LCCC) crews for six weeks of work at the Ben Delatour Scout Ranch in partnership with the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed. The 3,200-acre site has heavy fire fuel loads that present a high wildfire risk. Crews will reduce hazardous fuel densities and restore forest structures on approximately 18 acres of the watershed. This project is the continuation of several years of forest restoration and fire mitigation work to improve watershed health, protect nearby communities, safeguard water resources, and build sawyer capacity for the region.
Fire Mitigation Project, $41,100 to the City of Lakewood
The City of Lakewood will use its GOCO grant to partner with MHYC crews to further Lakewood’s Open Space Fire Mitigation Plan in the Green Mountain neighborhood. The project will focus on creating a 20-foot defensible buffer along neighbor property lines that intersect with city open space. Crews will remove brush, shrubs, dead trees, noxious weeds, and trees under six inches to reduce fuel on approximately 10 acres of the Ravines Open Space. The project will protect residential and community structures that neighbor the dense city open space area. These efforts also help restore and protect native habitats and lend to increased opportunities for high-quality public recreation opportunities.
Pinyon Mesa Headwaters Restoration Project, Year 3, $37,900 to Colorado West Land Trust
Funding will support Colorado West Land Trust in partnering with a Western Colorado Conservation Corps (WCCC) crew to work on the multi-year Pinyon Mesa Headwaters Restoration Project, a landscape-level, watershed restoration, and habitat enhancement project on conserved properties and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. Crews will remove 1.7 miles of fence, apply native grass seeds, and remove invasive vegetation from 21 acres of river corridors and meadows to enrich wildlife habitat and continue the restoration of Pinyon Mesa Headwaters. The project is a collaboration between CWLT, Mountain Island Ranch, Trout Unlimited, BLM, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and Rivers Edge West.
East Big Thompson Invasive Species Removal & Habitat Restoration, $30,825 to the City of Loveland
Funding will help The City of Loveland with invasive species removal and habitat restoration along the Big Thompson River. The city will partner with LCCC saw crews for three weeks of work to treat and remove invasive Russian olive, Siberian elm, and tamarisk trees along 15 acres of the river corridor. This project aims to improve overall ecosystem health, restore wildlife habitat, and decrease wildfire and flood risk. The removal of the invasive vegetation will also improve conditions for public access and scenic vistas along a one-mile portion of the city’s East Big Thompson River Trail planned for construction in 2023-24.
Upper Gunnison Basin Wet Meadows & Riparian Restoration Project, $34,700 to Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District
Funding will support the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District in partnering with WCCC crews for four weeks of stewardship work. Crews will construct beaver dam analogs, or man-made structures designed to mimic the form and function of natural beaver dams, and implement other low-tech processes to speed channel recovery and support wetland and river vegetation. They will hand-place rock structures to restore degraded stream channels in wet meadow systems. This project is part of the greater Upper Gunnison Basin Wet Meadow & Riparian Restoration Project, which has conducted restoration work in the area for 10 years.
Lake San Cristobal - Recreation Infrastructure, $41,100 to Hinsdale County
With its GOCO grant, Hinsdale County will partner withSCC-LV crews for four weeks of work at Lake San Cristobal. Crew members will help restore Wupperman Campground, repairing picnic tables, restrooms, signs, and fire pits; removing fire rings and trash; and doing fire mitigation work. The crew will remove overgrowth at Red Mountain Gulch, which is set to be developed for tent camping, and assist with the installation of an ADA fishing pier. They will also do fire mitigation work there.
Durango Area Trails Alliance Climbing Stewardship, $48,000 to the City of Durango
The City of Durango will partner with the newly established Durango Climbers Coalition and hire SCC-FC crews for climbing stewardship work at Dalla Mountain Park, Animas City Mountain, and the East Animas Climbing Area. Crews will repair social trails, install signage on climbing access routes, rehabilitate trails for safety, and install fencing to reroute trails from fragile habitats and sensitive areas.
Adding Capacity and Reducing User Conflict on Salida’s Trails, $34,700 to the City of Salida
Funding will help the City of Salida partner with SCC-LV crews for four weeks to connect a popular non-system route to the Panorama Trail. Crews will work with the volunteer nonprofit Salida Mountain Trails to make the trail more sustainable and user-friendly. Crews will close 540 feet of trail for rehabilitation, construct 955 feet of new trail, and improve 2,575 feet of the existing trail. Once completed, the Panorama-linked trail will create a continuous, mile-long city trail open for foot traffic. This project aims to improve connectivity, increase capacity, reduce user conflict, mitigate erosion, and enhance user experiences on Salida trails.
Peninsula Recreation Area Trail Improvements, $14,000 to the Town of Frisco
The grant will support the Town of Frisco in partnering with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps (RMYC) crews for two weeks of work. Crews will hand grade and remove rocks and revegetation on the 1,510-foot Perimeter Connector Trail, as well as construct 450 feet of trail at Jody’s Nugget Connector Trail. Both trails are set to be completed in the summer of 2023. This project is a multi-year partnership between RMYC and the Town of Frisco to provide connections between existing trails and other amenities in the Peninsula Recreation Area, serving residents and visitors who use the trail year-round.
Perimeter Trail Cascade Falls Improvement, $17,350 to the City of Ouray
The Cascade Falls section of the Ouray Perimeter Trail is subject to erosion and rock fall due to heavy use and steep terrain. Visitors often cut across the trail to the scenic waterfall, damaging resources. With this funding, SCC-FC crews will construct a total of 500 feet of rope fencing to encourage visitors to stay on the designated trail. Crews will also upgrade and repair 1.4 miles of the trail damaged by rainwater and snowmelt.
Horsetooth Mountain Open Space Trail Construction and Improvements Project, $32,000 to Larimer County
Larimer County Department of Natural Resources will partner with LCCC crews for four weeks to implement several trail improvements prioritized in the Horsetooth Mountain Open Space Management Plan. Crews will construct approximately one mile of new trail, restore 500 feet of unsustainable trail, and install new trail wayfinding signs within the open space. This project builds on the county’s goal to provide quality outdoor recreation experiences while protecting and enhancing natural resources and ensuring sustainable operations.
Rito Seco Trail Maintenance, $17,350 to Costilla County
With this funding, SCC-LV crew members will work on three miles of the Greenbelt Trail and on eight miles of trails that connect two of the most popular public recreation areas in the county, the Rito Seco Park Trail Complex and Batenburg Meadows. Crew members will clear fallen trees and brush, conduct trail surface maintenance, repair signage, perform drainage improvements, inspect campgrounds, and haul out debris. This project aims to increase safety and improve accessibility to the Sangre de Cristo Ranches Greenbelt, which offers a lush stretch of creek filled with beaver ponds, wildflowers, historic log cabin ruins, and more.
Purgatoire-Cucharas Collaborative Forest Health & Stewardship Project - Phase 2, $30,825 to the City of Trinidad
With the funding, the City of Trinidad will partner with MHYC-SFR crews for three weeks of work. They will mitigate fire fuels along six acres of the North Lake State Wildlife Area and enhance one mile of trail on the North Fork Purgatoire Trail System. This will improve forest health, address overgrowth on United States Forest Service recreational trails, and enhance visitor access. Initiated earlier this year, the collaborative project brings together 18 local and regional partners to accomplish critical forest health and community stewardship efforts, enhance recreational trails, and improve the protection of local communities' key drinking water sources.
City of Colorado Springs 2023 Open Space Preservation and Trail Construction, $70,825 to the City of Colorado Springs
The City of Colorado Springs will partner with MHYC-SFR crews for eight weeks of work at Austin Bluffs Open Space and Smith Creek Open Space. Crews will construct 6,650 feet of trail to provide neighborhood access to Austin Bluffs. At Smith Creek, they will apply herbicide on 33.25 acres to combat noxious weeds. They will work to restore native vegetation, helping protect the habitat of the endangered Preble’s meadow jumping mouse.
2023 Eagle Area Collaborative Stewardship Projects, $26,025 to the Town of Eagle
With this funding, the Town of Eagle will partner with a RMYC crew for three weeks of work to address priorities outlined in the master plan. Crew members will remove 2.25 miles of unmaintained fence, reduce fuel loads and noxious weeds across 30 acres, and conduct maintenance on 3.1 miles of fencing. They will perform campsite cleanup and improvements on 520 acres of land. Lastly, they will inventory and mitigate an estimated 1.5 miles of social trails.
Alamosa Trails and Fire Mitigation, $28,550 to the City of Alamosa
With this funding, the City of Alamosa will hire SCC-LV crews for three weeks of work on two city property areas identified as high-risk for fire. Crews will work on 11 acres at The Wilderness and 40 acres of the Oxbow Recreation Area, reducing fuel loads to create defensible spaces in the case of wildfire. Crews will also conduct trail maintenance work in areas requiring better drainage. This project is part of a multi-year, GOCO-supported collaboration between CYCA and SCC-LV to help the City of Alamosa develop and maintain a growing trail system.
Baker’s Park Trail System, $58,450 to San Juan County
Construction of the Baker’s Park Trail System began in August of 2022, and once completed, will deliver approximately 30 miles of shared-use single track for pedestrians and bikers of all skill levels. With the new funding, San Juan County will continue its partnership with SCC-FC. This key trail project for San Juan County aims to offer health and economic benefits, provide recreation opportunities, foster community involvement, supply educational experiences, and protect open space. Construction of the 10-mile stretch will take place in the summer of 2023.
Enhancing Habitat and Outdoor Learning Opportunities near Delta County Schools, $30,825 to North Fork Pool, Park and Recreation District
This funding will help North Fork Pool, Park and Recreation District hire WCCC crews for three weeks of work at the Paonia K-8 School and River Park, Crossroads Park, and the future site of the Miners Trail at the Delta County Fairgrounds. Crews will collaborate with the Wilder Bunch, Nature Connection's high school trail crew, to prepare sites for future trail construction or maintenance. Crew members and volunteers will treat 2.5 acres of tamarisk grove, prepare the Crossroads Park site for revegetation, and treat Russian olive and tamarisk on an additional four acres of river habitat along the North Fork of the Gunnison.