Garfield County Outdoors program receives $250,000 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado

Two Riverside Middle School students asscend Mt. Elbert during a Garfield County Outdoors trip.
Garfield County Outdoors/Courtesy

The Garfield County Outdoors (GCO) program was awarded a $250,000 grant by Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) on Sept. 21.

With its vision firmly set, GCO is driven by a commitment to nurture personal growth and confidence through diverse outdoor ventures, ranging from neighborhood strolls to vast backcountry journeys.

This grant is a milestone within GOCO’s Generation Wild campaign, instituted in 2015. Its core objective? Pushing the boundaries and inspiring Colorado families to delve deeper into nature, enhancing their overall well-being.

Aligning forces with Aspen Valley Land Trust (AVLT) and Colorado State University Extension (CSU Extension), GCO has charted a comprehensive blueprint for utilizing the grant. The primary focus will be broadening their community initiatives with a keen lens on inclusivity and sustainability.

The Garfield Re-2 School District stands central to their vision. By infusing additional personnel and resources, this district, often cited as the linchpin of GCO, is poised for an elevated synergy with community and youth figures. Among the slated projects are the formulation of a youth advisory council, spotlighting 10 dynamic leaders from GCO’s affiliate schools, and a slew of youth-centric leadership programs, all aimed at deepening the ties with the educational community.

The four pillars of GCO’s community outreach — New Castle, Silt, Rifle, and Parachute/Battlement Mesa — are set to undergo a transformative phase. Community leaders from these zones will be integrated more profoundly into partner deliberations, ushering in a more holistic and diverse decision-making landscape.

In tandem, GCO is also primed to embark on a meticulous strategic planning phase, aimed at refining their overarching goals and outreach modalities.

Since its foundation in 2017, GCO has unfurled an eclectic range of programs tailored for the youth of western Garfield County. Their collaborations with the Garfield Re-2 and Garfield 16 school districts, and CSU Extension, have yielded innovative solutions to combat outdoor access impediments. Their portfolio boasts a vibrant mix, from agriculture and snow sports to climbing and beyond. 

This year, the program has gathered 3,900 youth and 360 adult participants in various programs for the 2023 year.

“We have really been working hard on developing this program for the past few years,” Partan said. “With this new funding, we are going to be able to not only shift gears, but we will also be able to start providing more programs as well.”

GCO’s Program Director Scott Partan shed light on the current program framework, emphasizing its dedication to students within the two affiliated districts. However, an exciting twist is on the horizon with the imminent roll-out of family-centric modules.

“Our weekly offerings are diverse, ranging from hikes to ski trips to extended outdoor escapades,” Partan said.

Partan said the GCO program aspires to enhance outdoor education outreach across various schools within the district.

“We are fortunate enough to live in this really awesome place that provides a lot of places to explore and activities to do,” Partan said. “There are a lot of people who don’t have the means to do that, so we want to bridge that gap and make sure everyone has access to those opportunities.”

GOCO Generation Wild Program Officer Chris Aaby mirrored the enthusiasm. 

“This is a program that is focused on making sure that we are able to get our future students and generations outdoors,” Aaby said. “We are excited to see this program expanding and can’t wait to help make a community-wide change to see more kids outdoors.”

For more information regarding the program, visit the Garfield County Outdoors website.

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