New GOCO program to connect families, outdoors

Alex Zorn

generation wild programs in garfield county

• Garfield County School District 16 in Parachute/Battlement Mesa and Garfield Re-2 in Rifle, Silt, and New Castle, are serving as programming hubs, so students of all age groups and experience levels are connected to free outdoor and environmental education programs.

• Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) is providing hands-on outdoor education in elementary school classrooms.

• CSU Extension/4-H School Enrichment and After-School Program is providing science and outdoor education curriculum opportunities.

• Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers (RFOV) is teaching wilderness skills to elementary school students.

• Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is offering expeditionary learning experiences on the Colorado River.

• The Buddy Program is offering outdoor leadership expeditions at Rifle Middle School and Rifle High School.

• Colorado Mountain College (CMC) is providing rock climbing programs at Rifle Mountain Park.

Youth jobs and leadership opportunities

Generation Wild offers programs that provide pathways to future careers in the outdoors. These include:

• Rocky Mountain Youth Corps Community Development crew: paid jobs; service-learning experiences.

• ACES, Fat City Farmers and RFOV partnership: gardening stewardship, nature exploration, and trail building paid internships.

• Paid leadership training through CSU Extension/4H on gear library management

Nature-based play spaces

• Outdoor classroom at Bea Underwood Elementary School in Parachute.

• Greenhouse and nature trail at Grand Valley Middle School in Parachute.

Outdoor gear-lending libraries (starting in 2019)

• Various locations in Garfield School District 16

• Garfield County Fairgrounds, Rifle

• New Castle Community Center

Source: Garfield Healthy Communities Coalition

At the end of 2017, Garfield County was one of only nine communities to receive grant funding for its Great Outdoors Colorado Inspire Initiative. While still in the early stages, some of the programs, pathways and places they hope to establish are beginning to take shape.

The statewide Inspire Initiative, now known as Generation Wild, seeks to establish different ways for kids and their families to play and connect with the outdoors.

Community-based coalitions had the opportunity to submit proposals for funding dating back several years, as GOCO has awarded more than $29 million in Inspire grants.

The Get Outdoors Garfield County coalition, as it’s called, received $1,570,541 over the next three years to serve residents of Parachute/Battlement Mesa, Rifle, Silt and New Castle, to connect them to free outdoor programs.

Dana Wood, public health specialist with Garfield County Public Health, said local coalitions throughout the state are working to bring Generation Wild projects to life, using community and youth-led collaborative approaches.

“We want to create equitable access to the outdoors for everyone in our community, no matter where you live, or the resources you may or may not have,” she said.

Recently, Generation Wild logos were drawn in chalk in front of local libraries, and a list of ‘100 things to do before you’re 12’ came home in students’ school backpacks, Wood said.

“Garfield County is part of a growing movement to get kids outside and enjoying our surroundings,” she said.

The Generation Wild framework is being looked to as a national model, and each coalition’s approach serves as examples to other rural, urban, suburban or mountain communities across the country. The project provides a wide range of new outdoor experiences targeted at western Garfield County.

Meredith Burke, who will serve as the hub coordinator between the Garfield 16 and Re-2 school districts, said one of the goals of the program is to bring more outdoor education opportunities to the schools and both districts.

She said Bea Underwood Elementary’s outdoor classroom is waiting on the building permit to begin construction, and Grand Valley Middle School’s greenhouse construction will begin this fall.

Clint Whitley, who is starting a new outdoor education department at Garfield 16, said he hopes to start some of the outdoor education programs in the next couple months.

Whitley has used information from community surveys to break down the activities and programs people want available. Community programs will be the first target to gain community interest and then they will move to classrooms.

“We will have this funding until June 2021, and we want to get the word out about the incredible opportunities that this funding is bringing to our youth from New Castle to Parachute,” Wood said in a press release.

For more information on Generation Wild in Garfield County, contact Meredith Burke, Generation Wild hub coordinator, at

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