GOCO board awards $4M to Generation Wild communities to build on momentum of Colorado’s youth-and-outdoors movement
DENVER – Today the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) board awarded $4 million to 11 Generation Wild communities across Colorado. The funding is part of GOCO’s Generation Wild program, which launched in 2015 to help urban, suburban, and rural communities across Colorado introduce kids and families to new outdoor experiences and inspire them to get outside more often.
The communities, made up of diverse groups of partners, work to identify unique local barriers to the outdoors and devise solutions to address them, promoting equitable access to the outdoors.
The latest GOCO investment will support the coalitions in furthering their work in local communities as they:
- develop community-centered models;
- engage and support youth and resident leadership in planning and programmatic efforts;
- expand culturally relevant programing and outdoor opportunities and increase marketing in support of them;
- and build resilience and sustainability around the Generation Wild movement through strategic partnership, organizational restructuring, and capacity building.
Since launch, more than 470 organizations in the Generation Wild communities, including local governments, schools, health-based organizations, and youth-serving nonprofits, have reached 270,068 participants; run 7,649 programs; and created 3,313 pathways to outdoor careers, including jobs, internships, and leadership development opportunities.
This $4 million boost brings the GOCO board’s investment in the Generation Wild program to $51.8 million, positioning Colorado as a national leader in equitable outdoor access and youth connections to nature.
Funded communities include:
Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement, $752,500 grant to Eagle County
Supported by Eagle County, Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement (EVOM) partners, including the coordinating organization Walking Mountains Science Center and 13 additional program providers, will use this funding to build capacity and evolve the community’s structure.
EVOM partners plan to hire additional staff, including a bilingual coordinator and an outdoor specialist, to offer more programs and services and reach a wider audience. Partners will launch outdoor skills workshops to help community members gain the skills and confidence needed to explore the outdoors on their own, as well as a gear library to make accessing proper outdoor gear easier and less expensive. In addition, EVOM will update its organizational structure to create different participation levels for partners and community members and establish a leadership committee to include community members.
Over the past five years, EVOM has served more than 6,000 individuals through outdoor programming, engaging them in camping, hiking, rock climbing, learning wilderness survival skills, and other activities. Partners offer programming during the school day and out-of-school hours for children in preschool to twelfth grade. They aim to expand their programs and family activities to all schools and grade levels in Eagle County.
Garfield County Outdoors, $250,000 grant to Aspen Valley Land Trust
Supported by partnerships with Aspen Valley Land Trust and Colorado State University (CSU) Extension, Garfield County Outdoors (GCO) will use GOCO funding to build a more comprehensive, sustainable, and equitable program to engage more people. Partners will bring on additional staff to support the Re-2 School District, which serves as the coalition’s backbone, and increase engagement with community and youth leaders. This includes convening a youth advisory council with 10 youth leaders from the middle and high schools that GCO serves, providing youth leadership development opportunities, and growing future programming within the school districts.
GCO will deepen engagement with community leaders from each of its four main communities: New Castle, Silt, Rifle, and Parachute/Battlement Mesa in western Garfield County. These leaders will be invited to partner meetings to ensure more inclusive and equitable representation of the community's voices and assist in decision-making and priority setting. In addition, GCO plans to complete a strategic planning process to reassess partners' efforts, update community needs and resources, and refine community goals.
Since 2017, GCO has offered a variety of program opportunities to under-resourced youth in western Garfield County. They have developed strong partnerships with Garfield Re-2 and Garfield 16 school districts and CSU Extension, offering education and experiences that remove outdoor access barriers. GCO’s activities have focused on agriculture, fishing, camping, snow sports, climbing, school-based outdoor education, and more. Partners have also established outdoor career pathways through mentorships, paid internships, and job training opportunities with area partners like Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, Fat City Farmers, and Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers.
Generation Wild Northeast Metro Coalition, $371,000 grant to City of Commerce City and City of Aurora
Supported by the City of Commerce City, the City of Aurora, and the City of Denver, Generation Wild Wild Northeast Metro Coalition (Gen Wild NEMC) will use this GOCO funding to continue outdoor programs for youth and families in Commerce City, Montbello, Northeast Park Hill, and Northwest Aurora. The group also aims to strengthen its community of partners over the next two years as they dismantle barriers to healthy outdoor activities.
Partners will continue to meaningfully engage with community members and plan for future growth and strategic partnerships. The collaborative will provide stable and continuous administrative support to its partner organizations through staff capacity-funded positions and an increased focus on fundraising.
For the past seven years, the 12 partner organizations of Gen Wild NEMC have served over 40,000 youth through 800 programs, connecting them with the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge (RMANWR), Barr Lake State Park, and other close-to-home places for kids and families to experience the outdoors. Partners actively engage local youth through their youth council, which provides feedback on the community's programs to ensure that they are meeting the needs of local young people, and offer internships and other employment opportunities that serve as pathways to careers in outdoor recreation and conservation.
GenWild NEMC 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, Aurora, Commerce City, Denver and US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Generation Wild of the Pikes Peak Region, $235,000 grant to City of Colorado Springs
Supported by the City of Colorado Springs and Catamount Institute, Generation Wild Pikes Peak Region (GWPPR) will use this funding to support strategic growth, program development, and partnerships. The community will hire a consultant to develop a strategic plan for its operations and employ a new programs coordinator as well as an administrative and communications assistant.
Partners will also implement two programs requested by the community: more after-school programs for middle schoolers and family camping programs. In addition, funding will support GWPPR in deepening relationships with established community partners and resident leaders.
GWPPR has served residents of Southeast Colorado Springs for seven years, providing free and affordable, culturally relevant programming to over 7,000 youth. The community offers 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 for future careers in the outdoors. GWPPR partners include Catamount Institute, Rocky Mountain Field Institute, Kids on Bikes, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, North Cheyenne Cañon, Colorado Springs Community Centers (Deerfield Hills, Meadows Park, and Hillside), Camp Shady Brook of the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region, Mile High Youth Corps, Fountain Creek Watershed District, and Blackpackers.
Get Outdoors Leadville!, $350,000 grant to Lake County
Get Outdoors Leadville! (GOL!) and its partners will use this funding to expand equitable access to outdoor recreation, and to secure the future of its operations in Lake County through a two-year integration process with Lake County Government's Parks, Recreation and Open Space (PROS).
GOL! will continue to run its core programs, including out-of-school outdoor programs, nature-based learning in Lake County's public schools, outdoor leadership and employment pathways for youth and adults, Spanish-first outdoor experiences, and its Community Gear Library on the Colorado Mountain College campus. The community will increase its capacity to deliver these programs and services by hiring more staff and developing new training and evaluation programs. In addition, partners will expand their programs and partnerships to serve Latine, immigrant, and low-income communities, addressing their specific needs.
For seven years, GOL!’s 20 community partner organizations have provided Lake County youth with a wide range of outdoor programs both during the school year and in out-of-school time, including after-school nature clubs, summer camps, and winter sports activities. Close collaboration with the school district has allowed the partners to successfully integrate curriculum-driven, nature-based learning opportunities into the education of Lake County’s 1,100 students, from kindergarten through twelfth grade. These efforts aim to engage students in environmental education, stewardship, place-based academic fieldwork, and outdoor recreational activities.
Montezuma Inspire Coalition, $320,000 grant to Montezuma Land Conservancy
With this funding, Montezuma Inspire Coalition (MIC) and its partners will expand their reach to more youth in Montezuma County by offering additional programs and pathways for outdoor connection and expanding its partnership network. Additionally, partners will continue to enhance the Gear Lending Library for community members to rent outdoor gear and hire staff positions to help run it.
Since 2017, MIC has provided school-friendly programs, cost-free activities, opportunities for outdoor skill development, and affordable access to transportation and outdoor gear. The coalition collaborates with Dolores, Mancos, and Cortez school districts as well as the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s Kwiyagat Community Academy to develop student field trips and after-school programs. Partners also provide mentorship, internships, and job training for youth to develop leadership skills and explore outdoor career paths.
The coalition serves residents across Montezuma County, including those living in the four primary municipalities of Cortez, Dolores, Mancos, and Towaoc. MIC partners include Montezuma Land Conservancy and its agricultural education center of Fozzie’s Farm, City of Cortez Parks and Recreation, Dolores River Boating Advocates, High Desert DEVO, Medicine Horse Center, Montezuma School to Farm Project, San Juan Mountains Association, School Community Youth Collaborative, and Southwest Conservation Corps. These partners collaborate with many entities in the area including the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe to reach youth and families throughout the diverse community.
My Outdoor Colorado, $350,000 grant to City of Denver
My Outdoor Colorado (MOC) partners will use this funding to sustain MOC as a community hub in Denver’s Cole and Westwood neighborhoods, diversify its funding sources, and build a strong foundation for ongoing operations. Partners will invest in the capacity to continue bringing new and existing partners together for programmatic planning and development and will continue to prioritize working with community connectors to connect youth and families with outdoor opportunities.
MOC will sustain key leadership roles and engage youth and community members as participants and leaders in its activities. In addition, MOC and Denver Parks and Recreation aim to continuously explore opportunities to expand and deepen connections with Denver’s residents by forming strategic partnerships, growing their network, and strengthening community engagement, data-driven evaluation, and thoughtful communication strategies. Lastly, partners will engage in additional data collection to evaluate the impact of MOC’s efforts in the Cole and Westwood communities.
My Outdoor Colorado (MOC) is a community of 12 organizations working together to provide access to nature and outdoor experiences for youth and families. Since 2016, these communities have formed strategic partnerships with community-based organizations to provide youth with access to nature education, recreation, and skill-building. Partners offer a range of nature and outdoors-focused youth and family-centered opportunities, such as Saturday family adventures, family nature clubs, afterschool programs, in-school field trips, and job opportunities for teens and young adults.
Nature Connection, $300,500 grant to Delta County
With this GOCO funding, Nature Connection partners will broaden and diversify their network, promote pathways for area youth and families, and reach low-income, Spanish-speaking Latin and Karen refugee communities. Partners will also use the funding to support general operations, including staff salaries, program materials, and transportation costs.
Nature Connection will partner with more organizations that serve underserved populations in Delta and Olathe to broaden its network. They will also enhance their outdoor education programs by providing transportation and Spanish-speaking community connectors to make them more accessible to all youth and families, regardless of income or background. Additionally, partners will work with community organizations to develop culturally relevant outdoor education programs that are specifically designed for the Latin and Karen refugee communities.
Nature Connection proudly serves Delta and Montrose Counties. In the past year, the community served almost 6,000 students in its school-year programs and had 1,500 participants in its family programs. Partners focus their programming on promoting ongoing, cohesive pathways of outdoor experiences for community youth. They offer a variety of gear-lending “pop-ups” for the community to access outdoor gear, and a variety of relevant programs for elementary, middle, and high school students. In addition, older youth have the opportunity to apply for paid internships on trail crews, at summer camps, and with state and national land agencies.
Nature Kids/Jóvenes de la Naturaleza, $371,000 grant City of Lafayette
With support from the City of Lafayette and led by Thorne Nature Experience, Nature Kids/Jóvenes de la Naturaleza (NKJN) will use this GOCO funding to focus on family engagement, expand its youth pathways program, and provide foundational support to partners and families.
Partners will expand weekly bilingual family programming, and deepen leadership and professional development opportunities for youth by expanding their internship program. In addition, the coalition will continue supporting families and collaborating organizations by continuing regular operations and breaking down barriers to program participation, such as language, transportation, technological accessibility, and more.
NKJN’s 39 partner organizations provide underrepresented Lafayette youth and families with environmental education and outdoor recreation opportunities. Partners serve preschool to high school-aged youth with classroom, afterschool, field trip, and summer experiences ranging from summer camps to family programs. The community focuses on serving youth that attend Boulder Valley School District schools including Sanchez, Pioneer, and Ryan Elementary Schools; Angevine Middle School; and Centaurus High School.
San Luis Valley Generation Wild, $350,000 grant to City of Alamosa
With this funding, San Luis Valley Generation Wild (SLVGW) partners will deepen their relationships with families and parents, increase visibility and reach for partners, and develop an outdoor workforce pipeline for youth.
The Valley’s local school district is moving to a four-day school week, and SLVGW partners will use this funding to offer new Friday programming and support staff capacity for new and existing work. The community also plans to expand marketing efforts, ensuring communities across the San Luis Valley know about the available programs. Partners will also continue providing high-quality outdoor educational programs for youth in the SLV, and ensure skill-building and professional advancement opportunities for youth to explore outdoor career paths. In addition, the community will welcome two new partners: the Alamosa Bicycle Coalition and Southwest Conservation Corps Los Valles.
Since 2016, SLVGW partners, led by the City of Alamosa, have worked to create outdoor opportunities and connections for all residents of the San Luis Valley. They have formed partnerships with community organizations and streamlined program opportunities to offer a range of outdoor initiatives that meet the needs of Valley youth from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Partners also created pathways to employment opportunities for young adults through internships, scholarships, and youth counselor positions, encouraging the next generation to consider careers in the outdoors and environmental education.
Sheridan Inspire, $350,000 grant to City of Sheridan
This funding will support Sheridan Inspire partners in evolving its operational model to increase the capacity and impact of its programs and initiatives. Partners will increase the hours of community connectors, an integral part of the Sheridan Inspire workforce. They will also identify new partners to expand their network and collaborate among existing conservation, outdoor recreation, and civic engagement activities. In addition, the community will increase its marketing efforts through traditional channels and by word of mouth led by community leaders.
Since 2016, Sheridan Inspire has been building on the momentum of strong and diverse community partners to support equitable access and inspire a lifelong love of the outdoors. The community offers programs that teach self-reliance through engaging, hands-on, outdoor activities, and are phased to focus on family participation for youth ages 5-14, on adventure for youth ages 10-18, and on careers for youth ages 13-24.
Sheridan Inspire partners include the City of Sheridan, Sheridan School District No. 2, South Suburban Parks and Recreation, Mile High Youth Corps, Earth Force, and Groundwork Denver.
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 5,600 projects in all 64 counties of Colorado without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.