The Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) board awarded a $1,500,000 grant to The Trust for Public Land (TPL) in partnership with the City of Greeley and the Town of Windsor to purchase Shurview/Missile Site Bluffs Open Space. The City of Greeley was also awarded $160,650 to prepare Shurview Open Space for public use and an additional $143,000 to hire a GOCO fellow in its Natural Areas & Trails division. $555,956 was awarded to the Town of Erie for the Coal Creek Park Redevelopment Project.
The first grant is part of GOCO’s land acquisition program, which supports urban and rural landscape, waterway, and habitat protection priorities and improves access to the outdoors.
GOCO funding will help TPL, Greeley, and Windsor conserve the 978-acre Shurview/Missile Site Bluffs property, located between Windsor and Greeley along Highway 257 in Weld County. This property is the last remaining large parcel of land with significant conservation value along this corridor, providing a buffer and scenic views for the communities.
Over the last several decades, the property has been used for agriculture, sheep farming, and limited oil and gas development, but has remained largely undeveloped. It houses a range of wildlife species including the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, mule and whitetail deer, bald eagles, and river otters. It also plays an important role in managing stormwater and irrigation runoff and preventing soil erosion.
The project could inspire greater community investment in parks and open spaces in the area. Beyond this acquisition project, TPL and Greeley plan to deploy a community outreach strategy to develop partnerships with youth-serving organizations, collaborate to renovate the Delta Park in Easy Greeley, and generate support for a future parks and conservation funding ballot measure. These efforts will be further supported by the team’s new partnership with the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA), which will engage the community in the design and construction of trails and other forms of public access to the property.
The Shurview acquisition is expected to close in March 2022.
The second grant is part of GOCO’s conservation service corps program. GOCO partners with Colorado Youth Corps Association (CYCA) to employ youth corps crews across the state on outdoor recreation and stewardship projects. CYCA represents a statewide coalition of eight accredited corps that train youth, young adults, and veterans to complete land and water conservation work and gain professional skills. Corps members earn a stipend and an AmeriCorps education award to use toward college or reducing existing student loans.
“The partnership between GOCO and CYCA represents the best of what Colorado stands for,” said Scott Segerstrom, executive director of CYCA. “These resources will result in communities safer from wildland fire, waterways flowing free from invasive species, and enhanced recreation infrastructure to support our outdoor economy. Most importantly, this partnership will create hundreds of jobs that will be filled by youth and young adults recruited from communities across the state. The professional development and leadership growth they experience will be the amazing legacy of this investment.”
With the help of GOCO funds, the City of Greeley Natural Areas & Trail Division will hire Weld County Youth Conservation Corps (WCYCC) crews for 19 weeks to prepare the Shurview property for public access and use. Crews will work on weed control and mapping, erosion control, debris clean up, fence installation, trail preparation, and other site improvements. Youth corps will begin work when the property is acquired in March 2022.
WCYCC’s work is vital in order to address the restoration and outdoor recreation needs before the open space becomes publicly accessible. In addition, corps members will gain skills and knowledge in GIS mapping, weed identification, weather, erosion control, and site planning as well as in community engagement.
The third grant is part of GOCO’s fellowship program, which funds two-year positions at select organizations to prepare young people for careers in the outdoors. GOCO fellows gain experience in the fields of conservation, outdoor recreation, and stewardship while growing a professional skill set to apply to future endeavors.
The fellowship funding will support the City of Greeley in hiring a fellow in the Natural Areas & Trails (NAT) division of its culture, parks & recreation department. The fellow will partner with NAT staff and community stakeholders to help move major initiatives forward, including the land acquisition and community visioning and engagement effort for the Shurview property project, as well as a dedicated open space ballot measure in the near future.
“The City of Greeley’s continued partnership with GOCO, TPL, and the Town of Windsor are securing the foundation for the community’s larger conservation aspirations in years to come,” said Justin Scharton, Natural Area & Trails Division superintendent for the City of Greeley. “The Shurview acquisition will provide a regional open space hub for outdoor recreation in the Greeley-Windsor area, the Youth Corps grant will leverage both City and Weld County Conservation Corps capacity to open the first phase of Shurview to the public, and the award of a fellow will open the door for deeper and more authentic community engagement with the community, especially those groups not historically engaged in conservation planning.”
The final grant is part of GOCO’s community impact program that develops and revitalizes parks, trails, school yards, fairgrounds, environmental education facilities, and other outdoor projects that enhance a community’s quality of life and access to the outdoors.
The redevelopment plan includes the construction of a new community restroom, two new shade shelters, an event lawn, a promenade for community events, expanded trail opportunities, a nature-themed playground, parking, and a dual-use area that will house the town’s ice rink in winter and a splash pad in summer.
“The Coal Creek Park Redevelopment Project is significant on so many levels and it’s an honor and privilege to give the space a much needed makeover, ” said Erie Parks & Recreation Director Patrick Hammer. “The park sits on land that was deeded to the Town in 1909. Coal Creek Park is Town’s first owned and maintained community amenity and the cornerstone to, what has become, an amazing parks and recreation department. This project ensures the legacy of Coal Creek Park continues well into the future.”
Coal Creek Parkis located adjacent to the Old Town Erie neighborhood and one block away from Downtown Erie. Events held at the park bring pedestrian traffic to Downtown Erie, and the park provides residents and visitors an opportunity to engage with the outdoors, which has proved to be an important outlet for mental and physical health during the pandemic.
The vision is for the redeveloped park to not only enhance Old Town Erie but also to bring more recreational activities to the entire Erie community and its visitors.
Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers, and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created when voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 5,500 projects in all 64 counties of Colorado without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.