GOCO funds local outdoor education

Article published Oct 29, 2015

Montezuma Inspire plans to get kids off couch

By Jim Mimiaga Journal staff writer

The fun had playing outdoors as kids, tends to inspire people to embrace those values as adults.

That is the goal of a local movement by the Montezuma Inspire Coalition to get kids outside to begin a lifelong appreciation of the natural world, and of course, have a blast as well.

The Montezuma Land Conservancy (MLC) spearheaded the plan that focuses on outreach to educators to promote healthy outdoor experiences for students.

Great Outdoors Colorado recently awarded the newly formed coalition a $75,000 planning grant to get kids off the couch to explore local parks, farms, rivers and public lands.

The coalition has 18 months to plan and develop programs before they submit another grant for implementation funds.

“This is a really exciting opportunity for our county,” said Amber Clark, conservation director for MLC. “We have a number of nonprofits that have programming geared towards kids, but this planning process will enable us to effectively coordinate and expand our efforts to impact our youth in a lasting way.”

The vision of the Montezuma Inspire Coalition includes coordinating with each school district in the county on outdoor activities.

It also focuses on making sure the communities of Cortez, Mancos, Dolores and Towaoc have adequate access to outdoor spaces, and to promote careers focusing on the outdoors and natural sciences.

According to their grant application, the programs developed will give youth the opportunity to “work with horses, go rafting, hike in the nearby National Forest and canyon country, try out fishing, visit parks and farms, and learn about archaeology and biology.”

“The outdoor, educational programming targets grades K-12,” Clark said. “It’s important to develop a lasting connection to the various mental and health benefits of being in outdoor spaces.”

One way to reach that goal for kids to learn about sustainable agriculture.

“Montezuma School to Farm is looking forward to collaborating with the Inspire Coalition,” said director Sarah Syverson. “Our passion for getting youth involved in farming and gardening meshes with their outdoor education goals.”

In the coming year and a half, the coalition will engage with each community in the county to get public input on what is needed and desired.

Great Outdoors Colorado awarded 14 communities in the state grants to begin the planning process for its Inspire Initiative. GOCO has earmarked $25 million for the planning program, and later implementation process.

In 2017, the Montezuma Inspire Coalition will be eligible to apply for implementation funding for their program plan.

Nearby Lake County was also awarded up to $100,000 in planning funding for its Build A Generation Coalition that serves one of the state’s most underserved communities. The program plans to improve access to outdoor programming and infrastructure to youth with a focus on helping the county engage its significant Hispanic population.

GOCO Executive Director Lise Aangeenbrug, said the $25 million in outdoor education funding is an attempt to confront a growing disconnect between today’s youth and the outdoors.

“We know from numerous studies that time outside can lead to reduced stress, increased academic performance, and improved mental and physical health,” she said. “Every child deserves the chance to connect with the outdoors and nature.”

jmimiaga@the-journal.com

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