DENVER – Today the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board awarded the first-ever round of funding for the new Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Director’s Innovation Fund program.
The Director’s Innovation Fund (DIF) is a new program from a longstanding partnership between GOCO and CPW, awarding just under $100,000 to 10 projects across the state in its inaugural funding round.
DIF creates a funding source for one-time, innovative projects that would not otherwise receive funding from either organization. CPW receives half of GOCO’s funding each year for statewide programs, wildlife, and state parks through an annual investment proposal, however many innovative, smaller projects fall outside current funding parameters.
The ten funded projects will invest in all four regions of the state, connecting youth to the outdoors and increasing handicap accessibility in addition to launching innovative pilot programs from wildlife management.
Grant details are as follows:
ADA-Accessible Shuttle at Barr Lake State Park, $20,000 grant to Barr Lake State Park
Barr Lake State Park will invest $20,000 from GOCO to purchase an ADA-accessible shuttle to expand wheelchair access for birdwatching and other wildlife viewing at the park. The new shuttle will be the third free shuttle at Barr Lake and the volunteer-led program will enable users of all abilities to enjoy everything the state park has to offer.
Castlewood Canyon Nature Pass, $700 grant to Castlewood Canyon State Park
Castlewood Canyon State Park partnered with the Parker Task Force for its Nature Pass program pilot, hoping to engage 100 new families in connecting with the outdoors. The $700 grant from GOCO will provide seed money for free day passes to the park. Families will also be provided with a backpack with snacks, water, information about the park and CPW, a calendar of events at Castlewood Canyon, and self-guided hike directions.
Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area Phase III Stewardship Project, $14,000 grant to Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area
Increase in public use of Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area near Steamboat Springs, where thousands of Coloradans visit each year to hike, hunt, fish, and picnic, has led to the degradation of the riverbank. To protect wildlife habitat and ensure future public use of the property, the $14,000 GOCO grant will stabilize the riverbank with new vegetation and install rock structures to re-direct water flow and decrease sediment. The restoration project is critical to ensure future habitat for wildlife and the future of public access.
Effects of Recreation and Energy Development on Wildlife, $6,008 grant to CPW Resource Stewardship Unit
Lone Mesa State Park is the last state park to remain largely undeveloped, presenting a unique and urgent opportunity to study the long-term effects of outdoor recreation on wildlife. The study will count the dozens of wildlife species that call the park home with motion-triggered wildlife cameras and photography, providing a pre-development baseline for the park.
The project is a collaboration between CPW’s Resource Stewardship Program, Research Unit, Southwest Regional Office, and Lone Mesa State Park.
Elizabeth Deer Management PRogram, $9,415 grant to CPW Wildlife Area 5
CPW wildlife officers have partnered with the Town of Elizabeth to launch an innovative urban deer management program, which GOCO funding will help expand. The program invites local hunters to qualify for bowhunting within town limits through a rigorous testing process, ultimately donating more than half of harvested meet to local food banks. Last year, over 1,100 pounds of venison were donated in an area where nearly one in four residents have had vehicle collision with deer.
Frying-Pan Arkansas and Voluntary Flow Management Program Watershed Model and Interpretive Signs, $8,640 grant to Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area
The staff at AHRA not only manages one of the most popular outdoor recreation destinations in the country, but are also charged with educating the public about the area’s resources. The GOCO grant will help AHRA staff make informational signs and a display model of the Arkansas River and its watershed; both are critical tools in teaching the public where their water comes from and how water is managed for human and wildlife needs.
Outdoor Wilderness Lab, $20,000 grant to CPW Northwest Regional Office
Outdoor Wilderness Lab, or OWL, provides low-income students with what is often their first opportunity to experience the outdoors. Students leave OWL having experienced a life-changing education they would not otherwise be provided in a normal classroom setting. GOCO funding will allow all sixth graders to participate in OWL and provide the program with momentum to raise funds to expand to other middle schools, ultimately bringing the program to every school in Mesa County School District 51.
Plains Sharp-Tailed Grouse Infrared Flight Survey, $10,000 grant to CPW Wildlife Area 3
Current survey methods for the Plains Sharp-Tailed Grouse consist of wildlife staff driving established routes with designated stops to listen and look for birds, severely limiting the accuracy of the count. An infrared flight survey will allow CPW to more accurately and effectively manage the species, which it is also charged with monitoring for federal agencies. The new survey will also greatly decrease the staff time currently expended on surveying the birds.
Riparian Zone Footbridge, $8,800 grant to Rifle Gap State Fish Hatchery
Rifle Gap State Fish Hatchery, visited by more than 10,000 Coloradans each year, will invest $8,800 from GOCO to build a new footbridge across East Rifle Creek. The existing footbridge is dangerous and inaccessible by wheelchairs, but connects the hatchery parking lot with a trail system reaching neighboring Rifle Gap State Park. The new footbridge will be wider and ADA-compliant, upgrading this highly-used piece of infrastructure and ensuring visitor safety.
Wildlife Canine Officer, $2,000 grant to Northeast Regional Office
GOCO funding will go toward training Cash, a black Labrador Retriever puppy donated by a local hunting kennel and named for Johnny Cash. The dog in black will be trained to detect a number of species, helping wildlife officers more effectively manage vulnerable species such as boreal toads and black-footed ferrets. Cash will also help his human counterpart with community outreach to educate the public about natural resources and the importance of protecting wildlife.
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 to date has invested more than $500 million in Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created when voters approved a Constitutional Amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 4,900 projects in urban and rural areas in all 64 counties without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.