DENVER – Today the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board awarded a total of $500,000 in Youth Corps grants to 15 projects that will reduce wildfire risk, protect water resources, improve wildlife habitat, repair parks and trails, build new trails to enjoy, and improve safety for river recreationists. The funding supports 55 weeks of service.
GOCO awards Youth Corps funding through the Colorado Youth Corps Association (CYCA), which represents a statewide coalition of eight 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 service and an AmeriCorps education award to use toward college or reducing existing student loans. CYCA serves more than 1,500 participants 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 for youth corps work also increases the capacity of local governments and nonprofits to address pressing conservation issues.
Funded projects are as follows:
City of Thornton Big Dry Creek Russian Olive Phase 2, $32,000 grant to City of Thornton
The city will employ chainsaw crews from Mile High Youth Corps to continue Russian olive removal on eight open space parcels at Big Dry Creek. Russian olive trees outcompete native plants, interfere with natural plant succession and nutrient cycling, and are heavy water users, taxing water reserves.
Thornton and Adams County previously received funding for four weeks of work to remove invasives from 293 acres of open space. Phase two will allow the crews to continue eradicating the invasive species on remaining properties.
Alamosa Trails Network, $33,200 grant to City of Alamosa Parks and Recreation
With its funding, Alamosa will hire youth corps crews from Southwest Conservation Corps to build approximately one mile of ADA-accessible trail in Blanca Vista Park and treat approximately 10 miles of trail near the Alamosa Disc Golf Course for noxious weeds and overgrown brush.
Urban Single Track Trail Initiative Phase 1 and 2 and Reservoir Hill, $30,400 grant to Town of Pagosa Springs Parks and Recreation
Pagosa Springs’ parks and recreation department will hire youth corps crews from Southwest Conservation Corps for a trail-building project on Reservoir Hill, which is part of the greater Urban Single-Track Trail Initiative system in downtown Pagosa Springs. Crews will build 5,280 linear feet of trail, reroute 240 linear feet of trail, and install signage and rock crossings for a better user experience.
Ecosystem Learning Center, $23,600 grant to Central Colorado Conservancy (CCC)
CCC will employ youth corps crews from Southwest Conservation Corps to build one-eighth mile of trail, control noxious weeds, plant native species to increase plant diversity, and enhance wildlife habitat at the site of the future Ecosystem Learning Center in Salida.
Floyd Hill Open Space Noxious Weed Mitigation and Trail Building, $21,000 grant to Mountain Area Land Trust (MALT)
MALT will hire youth corps crews from Mile High Youth Corps to spend two weeks removing noxious weeds from 100 acres at Floyd Hill Open Space, which MALT conserved with a GOCO open space grant in March 2017. Additionally, crews will assist in constructing 4,600 linear feet of trail on the newly developed trail system. The new trail will provide access to a previously inaccessible public open space.
Pineries Open Space Trails & Forest Restoration Project, $21,000 grant to El Paso County
With its funding, El Paso County will employ youth corps crews from Mile High Youth Corps for three weeks to complete trail tread maintenance, trail construction, noxious weed removal, and forest management activities in a nine-acre area of the open space. This work will help improve the overall trail corridor, result in healthier ground cover, and reduce soil erosion.
John Griffin Regional Park Tamarisk and Russian Olive Abatement Phase III, $36,000 grant to Cañon City Area Metropolitan Recreation and Park District
With the help of GOCO funding, the city will employ youth corps crews from Mile High Youth Corps for four weeks to remove invasive trees from a 10-acre portion of the highly trafficked John Griffin Regional Park. The popular Arkansas River Riverwalk trail system winds its way through the property, immersing visitors in the natural landscape. The tamarisk and Russian olive trees not only negatively impact visitors’ experience, but also have negative effects on the habitat of native plants and wildlife.
Russian Olive Removal Project, $54,000 grant to City of Lakewood
The City of Lakewood will hire crews from Mile High Youth Corps for six weeks to remove 220 Russian olive trees on six acres of the Bear Creek Greenbelt. The 350-acre property has had continued problems with Russian olive infestation. After this phase of the project is complete, the entire area of the greenbelt will be free of the invasive species. The tree removal will improve the Bear Creek corridor and its wildlife habitat.
Elkhorn Creek Forest Health Initiative-Ben Delatour Scout Ranch, $54,000 grant to Colorado State Forest Service
Colorado State Forest Service will use its GOCO funding to support Larimer County’s Elkhorn Creek Forest Health Initiative at Ben Delatour Scout Ranch. The 3,200-acre property has heavy fire fuel loads, putting it at high risk for wildfire. The Forest Service will employ youth corps crews from Larimer County Conservation Corps for six weeks to reduce forest density and hazardous fuels, and restore forest structure and composition at the site. This work is necessary to improve watershed health, enhance resilience, and protect water resources.
Willow Bend Natural Area Invasive Species Removal and Mitigation, $18,000 grant to City of Loveland
The City of Loveland will hire crews from Larimer County Conservation Corps to work for two weeks at Willow Bend Natural Area, an 81-acre property along the east Big Thompson River. It is estimated that the property contains 650 invasive Russian olive, Siberian elm, and tamarisk trees. Crews will remove and treat the non‐native trees, enhancing the site for wildlife and visitors and allowing native vegetation to recover.
Cerise Park Invasive Species Removal, $27,000 grant to City of Montrose
The City of Montrose will employ youth corps crews from Western Colorado Conservation Corps for three weeks to cut and stack brush, chip wood, and spray pesticides on 11 acres of Cerise Park located along the west bank of the Uncompahgre River. This work will build off of similar work done in 2017 and 2018 at Cerise, Riverbottom, and Taviwatch Parks.
Removal of invasives along the river will improve safety for river users where trees overhang and create hazards for recreationists floating close to shore. Additionally, by reducing the number of invasive plants, native species can thrive, benefiting the diverse populations of wildlife found at Cerise Park.
Box Canyon Falls Native Plant Loop Improvement, $8,400 grant to City of Ouray
The City of Ouray will hire youth corps crews from Southwest Conservation Corps for one and a half weeks to improve the accessibility of trails and address erosion and vegetation issues at Box Canyon Falls. Corps members will widen 1,000 linear feet of trail to a minimum of 36 inches, remove rocks and vegetation, grade the path, and install fencing to reduce erosion.
Alma Riverwalk, $47,000 grant to Town of Alma
For more than 20 years, the Town of Alma and the Alma Foundation have been working to develop the Riverwalk project, an accessible trail and park. With the help of GOCO funding, the Town of Alma will employ youth corps crews from Southwest Conservation Corps for six weeks to assist with trail design and to fully construct one half-mile of trail, including boardwalks and retaining walls. A chainsaw crew will clear portions of the trail that pass through forested portions of the property.
The development of the Riverwalk trail will help protect 21 acres of wetland and river corridor by reducing the creation of social trails and will provide better access to the town’s centrally located property.
Spring Creek Bridge Replacement, $15,200 grant to City of Steamboat Springs
Youth corps crews from Rocky Mountain Youth Corps will work for two weeks to replace outdated bridges along Spring Creek. The bridges are both over 25 years old and have surpassed their useful lives. Their replacements will provide safer passage for trail users.
Wet Meadow and Riparian Restoration in Gunnison Sage-Grouse Habitats of Western Colorado, $15,200 grant to Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District
The Youth Corps grant to the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District will improve habitat for the federally listed Gunnison sage-grouse at Mountain Island Ranch in Mesa County and New Beginnings Ranch in San Miguel County. Youth corps crews from Western Colorado Conservation Corps will work for two weeks to build rock structures in critical habitat of the sage-grouse. The project will also improve the properties’ drought resiliency.