Great Outdoors Colorado awarded a $1.7 million Inspire Initiative grant to the City of Sheridan for its Sheridan Inspire program, which works to get kids and families outdoors by addressing barriers such as lack of awareness, language barriers, cost, safety and lack of transportation.
With the grant, Sheridan Inspire can implement plans that have been developed for two years and build on the momentum started by a coalition working to improve the lives of Sheridan youth and families. Those partners include the Sheridan School District, South Suburban Parks and Recreation, Mile High Youth Corps, Earth Force and Groundwork Denver.
The coalition is working to create places and programs that improve education, health and economic opportunities in the community, while growing youth civic engagement, stronger families and an appreciation for the outdoors.
One project of the coalition is improved signs and maps that will help Sheridan residents access and enjoy nearby outdoor places, including River Run Park, Carson Nature Center, Bear Creek Natural Areas, and Bear Creek Lake Park. In addition, the coalition will invest in creating inspiring outdoor spaces at Alice Terry Elementary School and Fort Logan Northgate.
Programs to teach self-reliance through engaging, hands-on, outdoor activities will focus on family participation (for youth ages 5-14), adventure (for youth ages 10-18), and jobs (for youth ages 13-24). Programs will connect families with resources, teach youth how to get to nearby outdoor places, and educate families on how to access Colorado's great outdoors. Youth will also be exposed to experiences such as volunteer activities, skills training, and job opportunities that could inspire future careers in natural resources.
Sheridan Inspire's work will create 162 youth jobs and three additional community jobs and will impact more than 7,200 youths.
The grant to Sheridan is one of nine Inspire Initiative implementation awards given, with $14.125 million awarded in all. Inspire invests in places, programs, and pathways to get Colorado kids and their families outside. The program is being looked at as a national model in connecting youth with the outdoors.
The funding brings GOCO's investment in Inspire to more than $29 million, including a $4 million grant from the Colorado Health Foundation, a $75,000 grant from the Boettcher Foundation for rural communities, and a $50,000 donation from DaVita.
Separately, South Suburban Parks and Recreation received an $18,000 Youth Corps grant from GOCO to remove invasive plants at South Platte Park in Littleton.
The Youth Corps grant is given through the Colorado Youth Corps Association, a statewide coalition of nine accredited youth 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 reducing existing student loans. The organization serves 1,700 young people annually.
With the help of GOCO funding, South Suburban will employ crews from Mile High Youth Corps 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.
Both plants crowd out native plants, where wildlife species live and get their food. Removing these invasive plant species will also benefit visitors with a more aesthetically pleasing park and better wildlife viewing opportunities.
Youth Corps projects also include educational and professional development opportunities for corps members. This project will help corps members learn about weed and water management in urban areas as well as career opportunities in natural resources.
To date, GOCO has invested $29.7 million in projects in Arapahoe County and has conserved more than 1,500 acres of land there. GOCO funding has supported multiple phases of the High Line Canal, Triple Creek Greenway, and South Platte River Trail, among other projects.
Great Outdoors Colorado 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. Go to GOCO.org for information.
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