Polis Administration Continues to Boost Colorado’s Robust Outdoor Rec Workforce & Make Sure All Coloradans Can Access World-Class Outdoors: OREC Announces Colorado State Outdoor Recreation Grant Recipients

Today, Governor Polis and the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office (OREC) of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) announced nine new recipients of the Colorado State Outdoor Recreation Grant across the state. These grants will provide professional development for over 200 students and workers across Colorado as they prepare for or further their careers in outdoor recreation, including organizations that provide outdoor experiences to youth who might otherwise experience barriers to outdoor recreation.

“Colorado’s great outdoors are a lot of fun and our thriving outdoor recreation industry is an economic engine for our state, which is why we are proud to support workforce development and critical safety training for hardworking Coloradans working in outdoor recreation. From trail building in Carbondale to youth leadership development in Eagle, these exciting grants are part of our commitment to make sure all Coloradans can safely access and enjoy our world-class outdoors,” said Governor Polis.

“The outdoor recreation industry is truly a statewide contributor to Colorado’s thriving economy, creating good-paying jobs in urban and rural communities. These grants continue the work of the Polis Administration to grow a strong Colorado economy that works for everyone, and we’re pleased to support strong projects across the state,” said Eve Lieberman, OEDIT’s Executive Director.

According to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the outdoor recreation industry contributed $11.6 billion to Colorado’s economy in 2021, accounting for 2.7% of the state’s overall economy. That’s nearly a full percentage point higher than the national contribution of 1.9%. In parts of Colorado, the effect is even greater. A first-of-its-kind economic impact report from Colorado Mesa University and funded in part by OREC found that the direct economic impact of outdoor recreation in Mesa County is 4.8% of the county’s GDP.

“Across the state, the outdoor recreation industry is working to train and diversify the talented workforce that helps the industry thrive. We believe it’s key to support these efforts by improving access to certifications, professional development and the hands-on experiences that lead to successful careers in this important sector of Colorado’s economy,” said OREC Director Conor Hall.

This was the second review period for the Colorado State Outdoor Recreation Grant, which was made possible by funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) State Tourism Grant. Forty-four applicants requested nearly $8.2 million in funding. Since the program’s launch on June 1, a total of $1,308,808 has been awarded to 19 projects. The next deadline for applications is March 31, 2023.

The nine organizations receiving grants are:

City of Fruita - Fruita, Colorado - $36,000

For the development of the Grand Valley Gravel Adventure Field Guide. The City of Fruita is partnering with the City of Palisade to market the Grand Valley as an outdoor recreation destination for gravel biking enthusiasts. The Adventure Field Guide series has been successfully deployed in multiple Colorado communities, and this edition will highlight gravel biking trails in Mesa County along with local history, attractions, and cultural heritage elements. The grant will cover research, editorial, design, illustration, printing, and local distribution.

Clear Creek County - Clear Creek County, Colorado - $97,500

This grant supports workforce development in the outdoor industry by helping 75 students in Clear Creek School District achieve certifications in wilderness first aid, avalanche safety, and swiftwater rescue. The goal of the program is to provide students with a well-rounded foundation from which they can enter careers in the outdoor recreation industry. Project expenses will include certification course costs for 25 students a year in Wilderness First Aid (WFA), American Institute for Avalanche Research & Education (AIARE), and Swiftwater Rescue Technician (SWRT) between 2023 and 2025.

Colorado Youth Outdoors - Fort Collins, Colorado - $70,400

Colorado Youth Outdoors (CYO) provides outdoor education to youth in Northern Colorado on their 220-acre campus. Combined with support from corporate partners, this grant funding will benefit up to 65 full- and part-time staff members, including hiring 15 new staff members by December 31, 2025. Project components include curriculum updates for outdoor education programming, day program updates, summer camp curriculum updates, staff training expenses, and job promotion and marketing.

ElevateHer - Chaffee County, Colorado - $75,000

This project provides career pathways for women in rural Colorado to enter the outdoor recreation industry. Specifically, elevateHER will employ 42 staff members and interns over the next three years, including two full-time staff per year, providing direct industry career pathways as well as indirect industry impacts through programming designed to introduce young women to the outdoors. Project expenses will include wages, recruitment costs, programming costs, and educational materials.

Environmental Learning for Kids - Denver, Colorado - $68,000

Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK) provides outdoor and environmental education for youth of color in the Denver Metropolitan Area. This funding will support consulting and the development of a new, three-year organizational strategic plan and branding guide, along with wages for four full-time staff members. ELK has a 26-year track record of providing access to the outdoors and career pathways for underserved youth in the Denver area.

First Descents - Denver, Colorado - $50,000

To support outdoor adventure programming for young adults impacted by cancer and MS. First Descents plans to offer 10 week-long programs for 125 participants in 2023, which will invest over $374,000 into three rural Colorado communities through contracted guide services. Project expenses will include lodging, guide services, staffing, meals, travel, marketing, and medical supplies for three week-long adventure programs to occur in Buena Vista, Estes Park, and Crested Butte in Summer 2023.

Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers (RFOV) - Carbondale, Colorado - $53,895

RFOV provides outdoor stewardship programming for Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley through trail building and maintenance. RFOV works with local governments and federal land managers to maintain and care for trails in one of the most trafficked areas for outdoor recreation in the nation. Project expenses will support wages and professional development for a growing field staff, along with equipment and tools to support the organization’s work.

SOS Outreach - Eagle County, Colorado -  $45,000

This funding will support SOS Outreach Career Development Pipeline programming, which will provide 15 young people with leadership training and professional development workshops in the outdoor recreation industry across seven weeks in Summer 2023. Participants will start with a two-week leadership and job skills intensive followed by a five-week apprenticeship with private partners such as Vail Resorts, Smartwool, and Christy Sports, among others. Cohort participants have traditionally been low-income and ethnic minority youth.

The Nature Connection - Delta County, Colorado - $45,000

The Nature Connection provides outdoor adventures and certifications for youth in Delta County with the intent of offering exposure to careers in the outdoor recreation industry. The grant will fund The Nature Connection internship positions for students who will help facilitate summer camps and school programming that offer outdoor recreation opportunities in Delta County. Local businesses will also partner with the organization to provide outdoor skills training and certifications.

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