Great Outdoors Colorado funds Garfield open space planning |

Great Outdoors Colorado funds Garfield open space planning

Post Independent staff report
Glenwood Springs, CO, Colorado

Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), which supports local conservation efforts with state lottery funds, is contributing $75,000 toward an open space planning project in Garfield County.

The project is is under the leadership of a team that includes the Aspen Valley Land Trust, Garfield County, Sonoran Institute, and the Trust for Public Land, the project’s fiscal sponsor.

The purpose of the project, called Garfield Conservation Priority Setting, is twofold.

First, it will establish clear priorities to ensure future conservation investments are strategic and cost-effective.

Second, it will provide a framework for developing a countywide open space program along the lines of those in Routt, Eagle, Pitkin and Gunnison counties.

The GOCO grant marks a significant step forward for the Garfield Legacy Project, a partnership of organizations and citizens working to create a voluntary open space and trails program in Garfield County.

The GOCO-funded project is to begin this summer and will combine community outreach to assess local conservation goals and mapping to identify where the community’s conservation priorities are best met. TPL has assisted more than 45 communities throughout the country with similar efforts.

These activities will build on a fiscal feasibility study and public polling that was completed last year through a partnership with GLP, the Sonoran Institute, TPL and Garfield County.

“Agricultural preservation and conserving remaining open space are important to the people who live here; we’ve seen that time and again in polls and surveys” said Mary Noone of Glenwood Springs, who is working with the Garfield Legacy Project.

“Right now, our focus is on understanding what people would most like to conserve. This funding will allow us to work with the community to identify these priorities,” she said.

Martha Cochran, executive director of the Aspen Valley Land Trust, views the project as a way to ensure that conservation dollars are spent wisely.

“There are lots of places we would love to conserve if we had the resources. Funding is always a limitation. This effort can help us look at which places make most sense to conserve based on local values. It’s a way to ask the community what matters to them so we can make sure we’re getting the best bang for the buck,” Cochran said.

In February, Garfield County committed to providing matching funds for the project.

Commissioner John Martin hopes the project can help unite people around a common interest in conserving the land.

“We’ve got a chance to do a good thing here, and I hope we do it in a different way, a way that doesn’t just fall into the old stereotypes, but different sides listen to each other and get something done,” Martin said. “If we do that, I think we’ll surprise people and I think we’ll do something good for the county.”

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