Garfield County rewarded for health efforts | PostIndependent.com

Garfield County rewarded for health efforts

Youth leaders engage younger members of the community during a visioning session at the New Castle Branch Library in 2016.

Two years ago, western Garfield County students formed a coalition with one goal: get their neighbors and classmates outside. After making connections that should benefit generations, their time and hard work was rewarded. Garfield Healthy Communities Coalition Coordinator Dana Wood confirmed Monday that the Great Outdoors Colorado Board will award $1,570,541 to the Get Outdoors Garfield County coalition. The award will be presented at a GOCO Board meeting later this month.

One of the coalition's first tasks will be to hire a full-time hub coordinator who will be shared between both the Garfield Re-2 and Garfield 16 School Districts.

Wood said there is still a lot of work to be done, but she expects some of the programs and pathways proposed will start as early as 2018.

The application included extensive research and showed lasting partnerships and connections made from Parachute to Aspen. Youth leaders from New Castle, Rifle and Parachute presented alongside officials with Aspen Community Foundation, the Buddy Program and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. Their shared goal: connecting western Garfield County youth to the outdoors.

"It was clear to us that Garfield County has spectacular outdoor opportunities (the Colorado River, a world-class rock climbing area in Rifle Mountain Park, and three State Parks!), yet so many of our youth lack access their own backyard assets," states the Get Outdoors Garfield County coalition vision summary.

It remains to be seen how quickly the proposed programs and pathways will be implemented. Local groups such as CSU Extension, Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers and Colorado Mountain College have volunteered to provide education programs to students. That may include outdoor education in the classroom and outdoor experiences in locations that are convenient for student transportation provided by the school districts.

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In fact, the local outdoor and recreation organizations that have agreed to long-term commitments for the initiative also helped with the application.

Great Outdoors Colorado invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to preserve and enhance the state's parks, trails, wildlife, rivers and open spaces. The organization's independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Since 1992, GOCO has committed more than $1.1 billion in lottery proceeds to more than 5,000 projects in all 64 counties without any tax dollar support.

The Inspire Initiative was developed in 2015 to address the growing disconnect between youth and the outdoors. Garfield County was among one of more than 30 communities to get involved from the beginning.

While Garfield County was not selected among the first six pilot communities, which received a total of $13.5 million in grant money, it was one of 14 applicants to be named a Tier 2 community and received $75,000 in planning grants.

Now the county will be among the nine Tier 2 communities to receive additional funding.