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Advocates celebrate legislature’s passage of Colorado Outdoor Equity Grant Program

June 12, 2021, 12:55 pm

A coalition of outdoor advocacy and conservation groups earlier this week issued the following press release on the Colorado Legislature’s passage of HB21-1318, which creates the Outdoor Equity Grant Program:

A coalition of 60+ outdoor advocacy and conservation organizations are celebrating the recent bipartisan passage of HB21-1318, which creates the Outdoor Equity Grant Program. This measure is an important step toward creating equitable outdoor access for our state’s underserved youth and families. The legislation, sponsored by Representatives Leslie Herod and David Ortiz, Senate President Leroy Garcia, and Senator Sonya Jaquez Lewis, now heads to Governor Polis’s desk for signing.

Sen. Leroy Garcia

Edgar Corona, Site Manager with Riverside Educational Center (REC), knows first-hand the immense impact that outdoor education and recreation can have: “My outdoor experiences with Riverside Education Center helped me to build confidence, they connected me to the natural resources and landscapes of Western Colorado, and they have become my personal passions.” 

Katie Navin, Executive Director of the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education, is excited for the prospects of this bill’s passage. “Gardens, zoos, creeks, and other outdoor sites are like charging stations that power children’s learning. I am thrilled that the Outdoor Equity Grant Program will be able to provide energizing outdoor experiences for our state’s underserved youth.”

“Through this program, we will be investing in our youth, which will benefit Colorado as a whole,” states Gabriel Otero, Next 100 Coalition. “We will see improved public health, better educational outcomes, and increased connection to the lands and waters of our beautiful state.”

“Everyone deserves to experience the vast beauty of the outdoors, in their communities as well as the far-flung wild spaces,” states Sarah Bodor, Director of Policy and Affiliate Relations, North American Association for Environmental Education. “With the passage of this bill, Colorado is helping lead the way in breaking down historic barriers regarding access to outdoor learning and exploration.”

“The Colorado Outdoor Equity Grant Program will enable underserved communities to meaningfully engage with the outdoors,” said Jason Swann, Western Lands Policy Analyst for Western Resource Advocates, and Rising Routes co-founder. “Access to nature shouldn’t be a luxury afforded to only a few, but a rightful privilege bestowed to everyone in Colorado.”

Funded by spillover dollars from the Colorado Lottery, the Outdoor Equity Grant Program will provide $750,000 in its first year to groups providing outdoor education and experiences for underserved youth and families. Over the following four years, funding is expected at $3,000,000 annually. Grants may be used to support outdoor program expenses, cover the cost of gear and equipment rentals, provide staffing, and acquire transportation to and from sites. The Grant Program will center its funding on low-income youth, youth with disabilities, LGBTQ+ populations, and racially and ethnically diverse Coloradans. The Coalition supporting this program looks forward to working with Colorado Parks & Wildlife to recruit and seat a board that is representative of the community, organizations, and youth that this initiative was created to serve.

“The transformative educational experiences that this bill supports will help inspire and enrich generations of Coloradans to come,” says Andrea Kurth, Gateway Community Program Manager, Continental Divide Trail Coalition. “We are excited for this investment in our communities, our young people, and our environment.”

“I can’t think of a better way to honor all people in Colorado and the deep connection of our state to public lands and natural heritage than passing the Outdoor Equity Grant Program,” states Juan Pérez Sáez, Next 100 Coalition. “This bill will plant the seeds for the next generation of environmental stewardship across the state.”

To learn more about the Outdoor Equity Grant Program and the coalition behind the cause, please view our Fact Sheet.

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