Tips to help you connect your family to nature!
Local youth learn about owl adaptations for flying at night from a Forest Service Wildlife Biologist.
By now we have all heard how vital it is for the health and well-being of our youth to be active in the outdoors. Not only that, but nature immersion helps our youth develop resiliency and confidence - what kid doesn’t need more of that these days? Unfortunately, many families living in rural Colorado have incomes where they can’t afford the outdoor activities so popular in our local area. The good news is that kids - specifically those living in Montrose and Delta Counties - are lucky, as new opportunities to help them experience outdoor activities are continuing to emerge. Efforts to expand access to the outdoors have been growing over the past few years in Colorado, and outdoor equity groups have been finding new sources of funding.
Inclusiveness and equity are two of the main components of the Colorado Outdoor Equity Grant Program (COEGP) created in 2021 when Governor Polis signed House Bill 21-1318, funding over $2 million of awards each year to organizations dedicated to getting underserved and underrepresented youth connected to outdoor activities. Colorado Parks and Wildlife sponsor the COEGP, managed by a board who has developed guidelines allowing each community flexibility in identifying their community values, priorities, and resources needed to achieve their goals for “leveling the playing field.” Whatever each community develops as their strategy, one of the focus areas of the COEGP is creating opportunities that instill a sense of wonder, excitement, and responsibility for the environment in Colorado youth and families.
The COEGP aims to increase the inclusivity of underserved youth and families in the outdoors. What does “underserved” mean? As defined by the COEGP board, underserved youth participants are “youth and their families who face racial and environmental inequities, are low-income, are from the LGBTQ+ community, are disabled, or are members of a Federally recognized Tribe.” Friends of Youth and Nature (FOYAN) has been awarded funding in 2023 from this Program to provide the needed assistance for connecting our youth to the outdoors through our partnership with youth groups comprising the Together for Resilient Youth coalition (TRY).
Our award of $67,180 has enabled us to reduce the barriers for our TRY youth coalition members to get outdoors. This hard-working group of youth services providers in Delta and Montrose Counties has come together for three years now to offer outdoor experiences to our youth most in need. These youth are receiving vital services through participating organizations including Black Canyon Boys and Girls Club, CASA7JD, Families Plus, Haven House for the Homeless, Partners West, Outer Range, and Montrose Recreation District. The Colorado Outdoor Equity Grand award has given FOYAN the opportunity to offer five outdoor events from 2023-24. This has allowed us to build up a mountain bike fleet managed by Montrose Recreation District that is available to these groups free of charge at events or for group checkouts. This bike fleet will be available long after the end of this grant award. In addition, personnel of these organizations receive a stipend to recruit, organize, and transport youth to the event venues. FOYAN also provides food for all participants, and has helped establish an additional free gear library managed by Partners West of Montrose and Ridgway State Park.
Since our grant award in March of 2023, FOYAN has offered several events for these youth and their families. In April of 2023 Ridgway State Park hosted over 120 participants who learned archery, fishing, fish printing, and birding skills. In June, the TRY youth participated in one of two raft trips on the Gunnison River, and our inaugural bike rodeo at Cerise Park in Montrose. We also had another trip to Ridgway State Park where youth and their families learned to paddleboard, bike, swim, and fish. In October, we shared the Outer Range Campus in Montrose to learn about outdoor careers from representatives of the United States Forest Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management, Colorado Canyons Association, and Montrose Recreation District. In 2024 we will again offer most of these amazing outings, as well as have a fun day in the snow on Grand Mesa learning to cross-country ski, snowshoe, sled, build snow sculptures – and hopefully ice fish!
We are grateful to the Colorado Outdoor Equity Board for the support needed for helping us to break down the barriers to outdoor recreation for our Western Slope youth participants. Be sure to learn more about this invaluable program at: https://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages/Outdoor-Equity-Fund.aspx.
Blogs for Winter!
Sleuthing Snow Tracks for Animal Intel
Bundle Up for Winter fun
Cross County Skiing with Kids
Wanted a Few Young Snow Rangers