Polis Administration Continues to Support Colorado’s Outdoor Industry: OREC Announces Third Round of 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 12 new recipients of the Colorado State Outdoor Recreation grant across the state. These grants will promote career development, hiring efforts and marketing in Colorado’s thriving outdoor recreation sector and have been awarded to organizations from Craig to Ridgway and Arvada to Colorado City.

“Colorado’s world-class outdoors provide year-round fun and adventure for Coloradans and visitors. These exciting grants continue to help people enjoy Colorado and boost the strong outdoor recreation industry that is an economic engine for our state. Everyone should be able to enjoy our amazing outdoors,” said Gov. Polis.

The recipients of these grants showcase the many ways the outdoor recreation industry supports local economies across Colorado. This round of grant funding will go towards important outdoor recreation projects like expanding an internship program in Durango, building a synthetic turf athletic field in Colorado City, and supporting the creation of an adventure guide in western Colorado, specifically the Uncompahgre Plateau region. A full list of recipient projects can be found below.  

“The outdoor recreation industry is an important part of the Colorado experience and a vital contributor to our state economy by providing an unparalleled quality of life and good paying jobs. These grant recipients continue the work of the Polis Administration to grow a strong Colorado economy that works for everyone, including urban and rural communities. We’re excited to support these impactful projects across the state,” said Eve Lieberman, OEDIT’s Executive Director.

This was the third 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. Since the program’s launch on June 1, 2022, a total of $1,943,636 has been awarded to 30 projects across Colorado. 

“This grant process has given us a closer look at the great work the outdoor recreation industry has planned across the state. We’ve also developed a true understanding of the industry’s interest in funding, ranging from trail planning to outdoor equipment testing labs. Through the application cycles, OREC received millions of dollars in requests from 39 counties. With this round of awards, we’re pleased to be supporting projects in 10 counties throughout Colorado,” said OREC Director Conor Hall. 

The final Colorado State Outdoor Recreation Grant recipients are expected to be announced this fall.

The 12 organizations receiving grants are:

Becket Academy, dba New Treks -  Denver, Colorado - $50,000
To provide environmental education to Title 1 schools in the Denver area. Funding for New Treks will further advance their vision of making the outdoors more accessible, diverse, and equitable. Specifically, funding will support staff wages, permitting, and equipment to operate courses in parks and other public lands. New Treks is a nonprofit organization currently partnering with eight Title 1 schools in Denver, Arapahoe, and Jefferson Counties to provide outdoor and environmental education to youth who lack access to the outdoors through rock climbing, backpacking, paddling, and other activities. Grant deliverables include 250 students reached through programming and the creation of a new mentorship program on or before June 30, 2024. 

Bicycle Colorado - Denver, Colorado - $35,000
To develop a statewide bike event marketing plan. Bicycle Colorado is the single source of information on all things related to organized competitive and non-competitive bike events in Colorado. Completion of a marketing plan will bolster Colorado’s brand as a premier destination for bike events while increasing the economic impact of these events on their host communities. Specifically, grant funds will be used to secure contractors who will perform data collection, strategic planning, and website design. Program deliverables include the completion of data collection on bike races, completion of a marketing and communications plan, and the launch of a new events website. 

City of Craig - Craig, Colorado - $100,000
To hire a full-time Recreation & Events Coordinator. This position will be responsible for event planning as well as marketing for outdoor recreation assets in and around Craig. Craig is a coal transition community that is prioritizing outdoor recreation and tourism as a basis of future economic development. Last year, the EDA provided $3.3 million to the city through its Assistance to Coal Communities grant in order to support the build out of a whitewater park along the Yampa River. Additionally, increased outdoor recreation opportunities have appeared around Craig in recent years, positioning the community for significant future growth in the industry. A Recreation & Events Coordinator will assist with this transition. The primary deliverable of this grant is a full-time Recreation & Events Coordinator to be hired by November 30, 2023.  

Epic Experience - Arvada, Colorado - $54,700
To support 2024 summer camp programs. Epic Experience empowers cancer patients and survivors through free week-long outdoor adventures throughout Colorado. The organization has served over 350 cancer survivors and provided economic impact in Colorado through its work with local outfitters and fees related to license requirements. Specifically, funding will support personnel expenses as well as contractor expenses for outdoor activities for camp participants. The primary deliverable of this grant is the completion of seven summer camps no later than September 30, 2024. 

ICELab - Gunnison, Colorado - $12,000
To support the second Outdoor Innovation Funding Summit, which will bring together industry founders along with investors for three days in Crested Butte. Specifically, funding will support meeting space expenses, summit activities, and travel expenses. ICELab is a multi-purpose business incubator, accelerator, and coworking space located on the campus of Western Colorado University in Gunnison. Their partnership with the Moosejaw Outdoor Industry Accelerator has positioned Gunnison as a hotbed of outdoor industry entrepreneurship, with participating companies often choosing to stay in or relocate to Western Colorado for their headquarters. Grant deliverables include the successful execution of the Outdoor Innovation Funding Summit in August 2023.  

La Plata Open Space Conservancy - Durango, Colorado -  $43,372
To expand an internship program in partnership with Fort Lewis College. Specifically, funding will support 14 interns, a GIS Program Coordinator, and GIS-related equipment and software. La Plata Open Space Conservancy is partnering with students in the GIS certificate program at Fort Lewis College to offer paid internship opportunities which will provide job experience in conservation work around Southwest Colorado. Program deliverables include the completion of 14, 50-hour internships for Fort Lewis College students with La Plata Open Space Conservancy on or before March 31, 2025. 

Montrose West Recreation - Naturita, Colorado - $21,300
To support marketing efforts related to outdoor recreation in western Montrose and San Miguel counties, also known as The West End. Expenses include contractual services for web design, map design and layout, social media content creation, map printing, and project coordination. In partnership with the West End Trails Alliance (WETA), Montrose West Recreation is working with community leaders and economic development partners to position outdoor recreation and tourism as a key industry in the growth of the West End. As a coal transition community diversifying its economy, this project enjoys broad community support and positions the West End even further as a premier recreation destination in Southwest Colorado. The deliverables for this grant include a full website redesign, enhanced social media content generation, and new regional trail maps to be printed and distributed on or before December 31, 2023. 

Outdoor Lab Foundation - Wheat Ridge, Colorado - $75,000
To support the Career Pathways Program, which provides high school students with internships to lead outdoor education programming for sixth-grade students throughout Jefferson County Public Schools. This funding will support the administrative expenses involved in placing 40 high school students in internship positions and 1,000 more in High School Leader (HSL) positions to facilitate these classroom experiences. Project components and expenses include $1,000 stipends for interns, wages for full-time staff, and supplies needed for programming. Project deliverables include the completion of Career Pathways programming and stipend awards in the 2023-2024 school year.

Ridgway Chamber of Commerce - Ridgway, Colorado - $34,500
To develop a Gravel Adventure Field Guide for the Uncompahgre Plateau and West San Juans area. The Gravel Adventure Field Guide series has been successfully deployed in multiple Colorado
communities, and includes local history, attractions, and cultural heritage elements alongside its gravel trail summaries. This guide will spotlight trails in Ouray, San Miguel, and Montrose Counties, including the West End. Grant deliverables include the planning, design, publication, and distribution of a Gravel Adventure Guide on or before March 31, 2024. 

The Wright - Denver, Colorado - $98,956
To support operational capacity related to The Wright Collegiate Challenge (WCC). Each year, The Wright connects higher-ed students preparing to enter the outdoor recreation industry with Colorado-based businesses that need a particular problem solved. Through four years, the WCC has engaged over 150 students, four higher-ed institutions, 23 employers, and a wide array of resource partners, including Grand Junction Economic Partnership, Routt County Economic Partnership, Outdoor Industry Association, Camber Outdoors, and the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. Specifically, grant funds will be used for salaried personnel; travel expenses; a contracted communications manager; and various operating expenses. The primary grant deliverable is the hiring of a full-time Program Manager by December 31, 2023. 

University of Colorado-Denver - Denver, Colorado - $200,000
For the buildout of an engineering lab on campus which will serve as a testing space for outdoor equipment for private manufacturers. Specifically, funding will allow for the purchase of major equipment pieces to be installed in an existing engineering space on campus. The University of Colorado-Denver School of Engineering is partnering with Outside Media to build a gear testing lab which will be accessible on a variable price scale to outdoor recreation manufacturers who otherwise may not have access to equipment that can be tested for durability and weather resistance. The primary grant deliverable is the purchase and installation of testing equipment on or before December 31, 2023. 

Valley First - Colorado City, Colorado – $100,000
To support the installation of a 77,000-square-foot synthetic turf athletic field at Greenhorn Valley Community Park in Colorado City by September 30, 2024. Valley First is a community organization based in rural Colorado which is raising funds for much needed improvements around the communities of Colorado City and Rye. This project was left unfinished in 2007 and has led to safety concerns as well as a cancellation of community programs due to inadequate facilities in the community. It is expected that this project will drive significant economic impact for an underserved part of Southern Colorado. 

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