DENVER – Today the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board awarded a total of $500,000 in Youth Corps grants to 15 projects that will improve wildlife habitat, reduce wildfire risk, and improve water quality across Colorado.
GOCO awards Youth Corps funding through the Colorado Youth Corps Association (CYCA), a statewide coalition of nine accredited corps that train youth, young adults, and veterans (ages 14-25) to work on land and water conservation projects. Corps members earn a stipend for their full-time service and an AmeriCorps education award to use toward college or existing student loan debt. CYCA serves 1,700 young people annually.
The GOCO-funded projects will significantly impact Colorado’s natural resources while employing young people and providing them with a path to higher education and economic independence.
“CYCA’s partnership with Great Outdoors Colorado is a launching pad for Colorado’s youth and young adults,” CYCA Executive Director Scott Segerstrom said. “This investment by GOCO does much more than protect our iconic landscapes. It places our corps members on the path to earning a college degree, starting their career, and discovering the confidence to become community leaders. Together, we are changing hundreds of lives each year.”
GOCO funding will employ young people while increasing the capacity of local governments, nonprofits, and land trusts to address pressing habitat issues. Projects will reduce wildfire risk, improve water quality, control flooding, help damaged wildlife habitat rebound, and repair parks and trails for the public to enjoy.
Funded projects are as follows:
Baxter Gulch Trail & Crested Butte Open Space Stewardship Program, $33,200 grant to the Town of Crested Butte
With assistance from GOCO, the Town of Crested Butte and Crested Butte Land Trust will continue their multi-year effort to finish Baxter Gulch Trail. Western Colorado Conservation Corps (WCCC) helped complete the trail to the Forest Service boundary with the help of GOCO funding last year. This project will finish the last section of the trail, which will be opened next year.
Cerise Riverbottom & Taviwach Invasive Species Removal, $18,000 grant to the City of Montrose
With the help of GOCO funding, Montrose will employ crews from Western Colorado Conservation Corps (WCCC) to remove invasive Russian olive and tamarisk trees. After removing the trees, WCCC will plant native cottonwood trees to help replenish food and habitat for birds, which are often crowded out by dense invasive plants. In total, 16 acres of invasive plants will be removed.
City of Thornton/Adams County Big Dry Creek Master Plan Russian Olive Removal, $35,600 grant to the City of Thornton
Thornton’s project will employ crews from Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) to remove invasive Russian olive trees along approximately three miles of Big Dry Creek. This work will advance Thornton and Adams County’s floodplain restoration plan, a joint effort to reconnect the Big Dry Creek floodplain, improve outdoor recreation access, and rebuild wildlife habitat.
Elkhorn Creek Forest Health Initiative: Expanding Wildfire Mitigation at Ben Delatour Scout Ranch, $36,000 grant to the Colorado State Forest Service
With the help of GOCO funding, crews from Larimer County Conservation Corps (LCCC) will remove fire fuel hazards on 150 acres of Ben Delatour Scout Ranch. The property is home to the Longs Peak Boys Scouts Council. Wildfire has been artificially suppressed there for more than a century, which dramatically increases the risk of wildfire over time.
Iron Mountain/Red Mountain/Intemann Sustainable Trail Maintenance, $14,000 grant to the City of Manitou Springs
Manitou Springs’ project will employ crews from Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) to repair trails damaged by heavy rainfall and an increase in people using them. Corps members will install retaining walls, widen trails at key junctures, and clear plants around the trail along with improving safety by adding features like handrails.
John Griffin Regional Park - Tamarisk & Russian Olive Abatement Project Phase II, $36,000 grant to Cañon City Metropolitan Recreation and Park District
With the help of GOCO funding, Cañon City will employ crews from Mile High Youth Corps-Southern Front Range (MHYC - SFR) to advance progress made during the first phase of tree removal last year.
MHYC crews will remove invasive tree species from 14 acres of John Griffin Regional Park, where Russian olive and tamarisk continue to crowd out wildlife and native plant species. The trees’ dense branches increase the threat of wildfire.
Lake Minnequa Renovation Project, $72,000 grant to the City of Pueblo
With the help of GOCO funding, Pueblo will employ crews from Mile High Youth Corps - Southern Front Range (MHYC - SFR) to remove invasive Russian olive trees. The trees have overgrown a section of the trail around Lake Minnequa, and removing them will improve park visitors’ experience and prevent the trees from spreading further.
Music Meadows Ranch Forest & Watershed Health, $18,000 grant to San Isabel Land Protection Trust
Crews from Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) will remove unhealthy trees to improve wildlife habitat and reduce wildfire risk. MHYC crews will use those removed trees to build an erosion control structure on steeply eroded streambanks on the ranch. This will improve water quality and lessen land loss on the property by slowing down further erosion along the Grape Creek.
Old St. Louis Natural Area Invasive Species Removal and Mitigation, $18,000 grant to the City of Loveland
Loveland will employ Youth Corps to remove three invasive tree species at a recently acquired open space. The 13-acre Old St. Louis Natural Area is located along the Big Thompson River, and is infested with Russian olive, Siberian elm, and tamarisk trees that threaten wildlife habitat and inhibit future outdoor recreation access.
Raptor Flyway Invasive Species Removal Project, $36,000 grant to the City of Brighton
Mile High Youth Corps crews will remove a variety of invasive tree species that interfere with flight routes for raptors like bald eagles, golden eagles, and hawks. Removing Russian olive, tamarisk, leafy spurge, teasel, and thistle trees is critical for Ken Mitchell Open Space and Prairie Lakes Open Space to be opened to the public.
Restoring Native Plant Communities in Jefferson County, $36,000 grant to the Jefferson Conservation District (JCD)
JCD will employ crews from Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) to remove harmful weeds across 150 acres of privately owned land protected by conservation easements that provide wildlife habitat and scenic views for outdoor recreation.
Both properties are already undergoing projects to reduce wildfire risk and have seen the removal of a significant amount of trees to reduce fire fuels. That has left the properties in prime condition for weed invasion, and harmful noxious plants taking root will deplete soil health and reduce wildlife habitat.
South Platte Park Weed Tree Removal, $18,000 grant to South Suburban Parks and Recreation District
With the help of GOCO funding, South Suburban will employ crews from Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) to remove saplings of invasive Russian olive trees around the lakes in South Platte Park. Crews will also remove common buckthorn that has become a dense infestation in the park.
Standley Lake Russian Olive Mitigation, $27,000 grant to the City of Westminster
MHYC crews will remove invasive Russian olive trees on the east side of the Standley Lake dam. A chainsaw and pesticide application crew will remove approximately eight acres of trees that are displacing native plants and harming wildlife habitat. Russian olive also negatively impacts the thousands of users at the park, with decreased wildlife viewing opportunities and a less attractive landscape.
Thomas Conservation Easement Junkins Fire Recovery, $18,000 grant to San Isabel Land Protection Trust
San Isabel’s second GOCO-funded project will take place on a property near Wetmore that was almost completely burned by the 2016 Junkins Fire. MHYC crews will carry out critical wildfire recovery work, planting new trees and building structures from natural materials to stabilize the soil and control flooding.
Wet Meadow & Riparian Restoration in Gunnison Sage-Grouse Habitats of Western Colorado, $24,200 grant to Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District (UGRWCD)
URGWCD will employ Youth Corps crews to assist in a large-scale habitat restoration project for Gunnison Sage Grouse. The bird has been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Of the approximately 5,000 left in the world, roughly 4,000 live in the Gunnison Basin.
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 5,000 projects in all 64 counties of Colorado without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.