DENVER- Today the GOCO board awarded a total of $900,000 to 23 conservation service corps 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 $6 million in combined local government and open space purpose funds. This investment has provided 10,078 young adults with the opportunity to participate in 182 projects, complemented by 19,839 hours of environmental and career-building education by sponsoring agencies. In addition, 824 corps-members have earned AmeriCorps Education Awards totaling $1,537,662 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 50 miles of riverbank corridor, completing 17 miles of trail work, addressing forest health issues on 123 acres, and removing invasive species from 839 acres.
Baker’s Park Trail System- Phase One, $21,780 grant to San Juan County
With the help of GOCO funds, a Southwest Conservation Corps-Four Corners crew will help build the Baker’s Park Trail System, which will include 24 miles of shared-use singletrack for bikers and pedestrians and six miles of one-way trails for mountain biking. Crews will clear corridors, scatter woody debris, and hand finish the work of trails built by the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) and other professional trail builders. The project, which is a partnership between the Bureau of Land Management, the Town of Silverton, Silverton Singletrack Society, IMBA, and local businesses, offers health and economic benefits, provides recreation opportunities, and fosters community involvement. Partners are set to break ground in spring 2022 with the construction of 10 miles of trail and a trailhead parking lot.
Buena Vista Near Town Trail Development & Maintenance Project, $23,310 grant to the Town of Buena Vista
The Barbara “Whipple” Trail is a multi-use trail for hiking, running, biking, and horseback riding which has experienced an increase in use making conditions unsafe and environmentally unstable. With the help of GOCO funds, a Southwest Conservation Corps-Los Valles crew will work for three weeks on restoring the trail, improving its safety, sustainability, and enjoyment for all users.
Crews will also work on the 1.3-mile Walton Loop ADA-compliant trail, and on the construction of a one-mile, single-loop beginner mountain bike TaterTots trail next to it. Both trails will help reduce the number of social trails created while providing improved access to recreation with river views and trails, tennis courts, and high school sports fields nearby.
Dolores River Restoration, $28,350 grant to Mesa County
Mesa County Noxious Weed and Pest Management will hire crews from Western Colorado Conservation Corps for three weeks to conduct four acres of tamarisk removal and 16.5 acres of tamarisk treatments along the Dolores River. Crews will reduce the invasive plant contributing to channel narrowing in the river. The project will improve the overall ecosystem by reducing competition for native species, reducing the risk of fire, and improving habitat for animals. This project will be conducted by the Dolores River Restoration Partnership with leadership from Mesa County, RiversEdge West, Bureau of Land Management, and Southwest Conservation Corps.
East Plum Creek Restoration Partnership, $24,150 grant to Douglas County Conservation District
With this funding, Douglas County Conservation District will employ a Mile High Youth Corps crew for four weeks of river restoration work across three reaches of East Plum Creek. Crews will continue to regrade, contour, and revegetate stream banks and damaged floodplains, adding to work already completed on the creek over the last three years. They will plant approximately 5,000 native riparian species and other aquatic plants to help improve the creek system’s water quality and wildlife habitat. In addition, an herbicide application crew will work on a one-mile stretch of the creek through Lowell Ranch. This project will help partners control noxious weeds, increase native plant diversity, improve habitat for river wildlife, and create a better functioning stream system.
Elkhorn Creek Forest Health Initiative, $75,600 grant to Larimer County
The Larimer County Department of Natural Resources in partnership with the Elkhorn Creek Forest Health Initiative will employ a Larimer County Conservation Corps (LCCC) crew to work on forest restoration and wildfire mitigation at Ben Delatour Scout Ranch. In three weeks of work, crews will mitigate ponderosa pine and dry mixed-conifer on 20 acres to reduce fire hazards by targeting small stems, piling slash, pruning leaf trees, and more. This project is part of a multi-year effort. LCCC’s ongoing work will improve watershed health, protect nearby communities, safeguard water resources within the watershed, and build sawyer capacity for the 3,200-acre property.
Forest Health and Habitat Restoration in the Pikes Peak Conservation Corridor, $36,330 grant to Palmer Land Conservancy
With the help of GOCO funds, a Mile High Youth Corps-Southern Front Range (MHYC-SFR) crew will work on restoring forest health and habitat for three weeks at the Pikes Peak Conservation Corridor. Crews will complete forest health and fuel mitigation work across 5-10 acres of land, construct and repair a mile’s worth of wildlife-friendly fencing, and remove invasive species on 20 acres. This project aims to reduce the intensity of catastrophic wildfires, improve forest health, and enhance an important migratory area for elk and other wildlife species. Partners include Palmer Land Conservancy, MHYC-SFR, Coalition for the Upper South Platte, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and private landowners.
Genesee-Newton Project: Developing Recreational and Camping Capacity in Denver Mountain Parks, $58,800 grant to the City and County of Denver
A Mile High Youth Corps crew will work with Denver Mountain Parks for eight weeks to develop camping and recreational capacity as part of the Genesee-Newton Project. Crews will reclaim a near-abandoned campground in Genesee Park, build six tent pads in the youth programming area, and complete construction of the first loop of an introductory mountain bike course at Newton Park in Conifer. This project will help parks accommodate group and volunteer programming; meet the demand for organized group camping; and facilitate youth education in mountain bike skills, safety, and trail etiquette.
Hazard Tree and Forest Fuel Mitigation Project in Grand County, $37,800 grant to the Town of Winter Park
In 2020, Grand County experienced two widespread and long-lived windstorms. These derecho wind events in addition to the East Troublesome and William Fork Fires and the pine bark beetle epidemic have greatly affected area trees. They currently present wildfire risks and pose safety hazards as they continue to fall on roads, trails, and recreation areas. With this funding, the Headwaters Trail Alliance (HTA) and the Town of Winter Park will employ a Rocky Mountain Youth Corps (RMYC) chainsaw crew for four weeks to mitigate hazard trees. Their removal will improve public safety in recreational areas, reduce annual trail maintenance costs and resources, reduce forest fuels that pose wildfire risks, and promote healthy and diverse forests. This project is part of a multi-year collaboration between RMYC and HTA.
Healthy Forests, Fences and Benches, $51,660 grant to Chaffee County
Chaffee County will employ a Southwest Conservation Corps-Los Valles (SCC-LV) crew for six weeks to complete critical wildfire mitigation work as part of Chaffee County’s Healthy Forests, Fences, and Benches program. Crews will thin seven or more acres of lodgepole pine in Chaffee and Lake Counties to reduce the threat of extreme wildfire conditions. Harvested timber will be used to build fences that help protect plant and wildlife habitat, and to construct accessible benches at recreation areas in Chaffee County.
This project is a collaboration between Chaffee County, Lake County, Town of Buena Vista, the City of Salida, Town of Poncha Springs, San Isabel National Forest, Salida and Leadville Ranger Districts, Colorado State Forest, Arkansas River Watershed Collaborative, SCC, Envision Chaffee County, Chaffee County Fires Protection District, U.S. Forest Service, and local stewardship volunteer groups.
John Griffin Regional Park Fire Mitigation, $37,800 grant to Cañon City Area Metropolitan Recreation and Park District (CCAMRPD)
CCAMRPD will employ a Mile High Youth Corps-Southern Front Range chainsaw crew for four weeks of work to protect the long-term viability of the popular John Griffin Regional Park. Crews will remove dead and fallen cottonwood trees on 15 acres to mitigate fire threats during dry conditions and to improve access for the community to walk, bike, hike, ride horses, and more. The project is part of a bigger effort to keep restoring the 80-acre nature area, with crews continuing work that a youth corps crew began in summer 2021.
Mitigation and Removal of Invasive & Fire Hazard Trees, $28,350 grant to the City of Cortez
A Southwest Conservation Corps-Four Corners (SCC-FC) crew will work for three weeks on removing tamarisk and Russian olive from 186 acres across Denny Lake Park, Greer Natural Area, and Carpenter Natural Area. An estimated 300 invasive trees consume the water and space needed for native vegetation and make it difficult for community members to access the fishing ponds. The removal of these species helps the city manage the environment and facilitates the planting of native species to provide habitat for native flora, fauna, and birds. It will also provide better recreational access for walking, hiking, fishing, and biking. This project is a partnership between Montezuma County Weed Control, Cortez Fire Protection District, the City of Cortez, and SCC-FC.
North Fruita Desert New Trail Construction Project, $31,920 grant to Mesa County Public Health
With the help of GOCO funds, Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) will employ a Western Colorado Conservation Corps crew for four weeks to build four miles of new trail at the North Fruita Desert Special Recreation Management Area, which is administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Crews will cut new tread on pre-determined routes while receiving training and support from the City of Fruita, BLM, Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Association, and MCPH.
Pinyon Mesa Headwaters Restoration Project, $53,760 grant to Colorado West Land Trust
Colorado West Land Trust will employ a Western Colorado Conservation Corps (WCCC) crew to work on the Headwaters Restoration Project at Pinyon Mesa for six weeks. Crews will install water-related structures in meadows and stream corridors, remove invasive vegetation and fencing, and stimulate aspen growth among other tasks. The project will improve the quality and amount of water delivered to the Colorado River, as well as contribute to invasive vegetation control efforts while enhancing habitat for Gunnison sage grouse and other native wildlife.
This project is a multi-year collaboration between Mountain Island Ranch, Trout Unlimited, the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and RiversEdge West (REW) focused on landscape-level, watershed restoration and habitat enhancement across conserved properties and BLM lands.
Purgatoire-Cucharas Collaborative Forest Health & Stewardship Project, $28,350 grant to the City of Trinidad
With the help of GOCO funds, a Mile High Youth Corps-Southern Front Range crew will work for three weeks to restore forest lands and reduce wildfire risk in Las Animas and Huerfano counties. In support of the Purgatoire-Cucharas Collaborative Forest Health Stewardship Project (PCCFHSP), crews will work on a minimum of 32 acres of national forest land and five acres of municipal forest land. Restoring these lands back to a healthy condition will reduce wildfire risk to the drinking water supplies of the Purgatoire River and Cucharas River watersheds as well as wildfire danger to local communities.
The PCCFHSP is a collaborative effort among young adult and veteran crews, volunteers, U.S. Forest Service staff and firefighters, and an adult crew of local community members who work on stewardship projects as part of a broad-scale effort.
Restoring the High Line Canal through Russian Olive Mapping and Removal, $28,350 grant to High Line Canal Conservancy (HLCC)
HLCC will partner with Mile High Youth Corps for three weeks of work to begin restoring 9.6 miles of the High Line Canal. Crews will map, inventory, and remove invasive Russian olive trees from the corridor’s canopy. The conservancy is working with local partners to transition the canal into green stormwater infrastructure, which could improve water quality and provide a new source of water to preserve the canal’s natural character. The removal of invasive species will complement the conservancy’s efforts to plant trees along this reach of the canal and initiate a holistic approach to protecting and restoring the canopy.
Riverbend Park Riparian Restoration, $18,900 grant to the Town of Palisade
In partnership with RiversEdge West, the Town of Palisade will employ a Western Colorado Conservation Corps crew for two weeks to remove tamarisk and Russian olive from Riverbend Park along the Colorado River. These invasive species inhibit river access, crowd out native vegetation, and pose a potential wildfire risk to this popular multi-use park. Phase one of this project took place in July of 2020. This additional phase will ensure past work is maintained and that re-growth is addressed.
Russian Olive Removal and Habitat Restoration Project, $43,050 grant to the City of Lakewood
A Mile High Youth Corps crew will work for five weeks at Bear Creek Greenbelt open space. Crews will use chainsaws and herbicide applications to remove Russian olive from approximately 10 acres and help restore the areas impacted by the removal. Crews will also improve water quality in Bear Creek by planting willow stakes and native vegetation, removing invasive weeds, and installing fencing around restored areas. The project will protect and restore wildlife habitat while promoting the 350-acre open space’s environmental quality, which benefits park users and residents in surrounding neighborhoods.
Sacramento Creek Ranch and Pika Trail Resource Protection and Stewardship, $26,880 grant to Mountain Area Land Trust
With the help of GOCO funds, Mountain Area Land Trust will employ a Southwest Conservation Corps-Los Valles crew for three weeks of work at Sacramento Creek Ranch and on 92 acres of the Pennsylvania Mountain Natural Area. Crews will remove invasive species, perform 2.5 miles of hiking trail maintenance, manage beaver ponds for water flow, and create a drainage system in the parking lot at the Pika Trailhead to inhibit erosion and flooding. They will also remove hazardous dead and diseased trees impacted by dwarf mistletoe and create a natural seating area with repurposed trees and stumps.
Together, the two sites host environmental education programs and 45-plus years of continuous high alpine research. The properties also provide access to public trails on adjacent conserved properties and lands owned by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.
Shurview Public Access Preparation, $160,650 grant to the City of Greeley
The City of Greeley Natural Areas & Trail Division will hire Weld County Youth Conservation Corps crews for 19 weeks to prepare the Shurview property for public access and use. This work is critical to address the open space’s restoration and outdoor recreation needs before it becomes publicly accessible.
Crews will work on weed control and mapping, erosion control, debris clean-up, fence installation, trail preparation, and other site improvements. With this work, crews will gain skills in GIS mapping, weed identification, weather, erosion control, site planning, and community engagement. Youth corps will begin work when the property is acquired next year.
Slumgullion Center Campground and Trail Project, $15,960 grant to Colorado Open Lands
With GOCO funds, a Southwest Conservation Corps-Los Valles (SCC-LV) crew will work for two weeks at Lake City’s 58-acre Slumgullion Center. Crews will clean up and refine approximately three acres of the campsite. They will clear dead trees and debris from an observatory site near the top of Slumgullion Pass in preparation for astronomy viewing sessions. Crews will also improve two 100-foot sections of trail and build two miles of new trail, which will provide river access to the Lake Fork of the Gunnison and create a two-mile loop from the interpretive overlook to the picnic area and back to the campground. This project is a partnership between Colorado Open Lands, SCC-LV, and Lake Fork Valley Conservancy.
Summer Weed Abatement & Trail Work, $15,960 grant to the City of Gunnison
A Western Colorado Conservation Corps crew will work for two weeks on weed removal and trail work on roughly five acres of open space at Van Tuyl pocket parks, Cranor Hill, Taylor Mountain Park, West Gunnison Park, and Gunnison Recreation Center. Crews will hand-pull invasive weeds and construct 2,000 feet of granite trail that will connect the Gunnison River waterfront to housing development, providing the neighborhood access to open meadows and ponds. This project builds on past youth corps work as part of a bigger vision to build the West Gunnison Neighborhood Park, which will make outdoor recreation opportunities more accessible and equitable for all Gunnison residents.
2022 Eagle Area Collaborative Stewardship, $23,940 grant to the Town of Eagle
With increased visitation and recreation use in Eagle County, local land managers have witnessed substantial impacts on trails, open spaces, and federal lands. With GOCO funding, the Town of Eagle Open Space and Trails, in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management, will employ a Rocky Mountain Youth Corps crew for three weeks of stewardship work. Crews will complete three miles of trail improvements, clean up 750 acres of camping on federal lands, remove 1.5 miles of social trails, and treat 15 acres to mitigate noxious weeds. This project will help protect the natural resources and economic livelihood of the community.
Wet Mountains Junkins Fire Recovery and Mitigation, $28,350 grant to San Isabel Land Protection Trust
Mile High Youth Corps crew will work on wildfire recovery and future fire mitigation work on three conserved ranches: Wet Mountain Ranch, Lonesome Valley Ranch, and Stillpoint Ranch. Crews will spray or remove noxious weeds, plant conifer saplings, and overstock unburned areas in an effort to regenerate a biodiverse forest in the burn scar and reduce the risk of high-intensity fires.
This effort is part of an ongoing recovery project from the 2016 Junkins Fire that burned nearly half of the three properties. The project will restore wildlife habitat, reduce erosion and flooding potential, improve forest and stream health, and support landscape resilience. It is slated to be completed by fall 2022.