The Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) board awarded $147,000 to the National Forest Foundation and Chaffee County to create sustainable recreation opportunities across Colorado’s iconic 14,000-foot+ mountains. The visioning grant is part of GOCO’s Centennial Program, which helps partners thoughtfully plan high-value, once-in-a-generation projects that will create lasting impacts on the Centennial State and future generations.
The National Forest Foundation and Chaffee County will work with over 20 partners, including outdoor recreation organizations and local communities, to create a shared vision for sustainable recreation across Colorado’s 14ers. They will convene with communities, local governments, sovereign tribal nations, outdoor stewardship organizations, federal and state land management agencies, and businesses at a statewide level to agree on a set of broad desired conditions applicable to each 14er while considering visitor use, primitive trail experiences, and cultural or tribal significance.
Partners aim to identify a statewide, scaled approach to meet trail sustainability, resource protection, and outdoor recreation access goals at the most popular 14ers. They will also consider equitable access to these places and how to break down local barriers to the outdoors, working to identify an investment plan for sustainably funding proposed efforts.
The visioning process will occur over 18 months beginning in the spring of 2022, and will include key stakeholders such as the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, Continental Divide Trail Coalition, Get Outdoors Leadville!, Chaffee Recreation Council, Rocky Mountain Field Institute, volunteer groups, recreation user groups, Colorado-based youth corps, community-based participants, and the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. The coalition has provided $62,551 in cash and in-kind matching funds to implement the planning process.
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. Since its creation in 1992, GOCO has funded more than 5,500 projects in all 64 counties of Colorado without any tax dollar support.
The initiative to create a vision for sustainable recreation on Colorado’s 14ers comes at a time when these iconic peaks have experienced record visitation, leading to increased concerns from landowners, law enforcement, and first-responders. This “visioning effort” is designed to produce a statewide plan to meet sustainability, resource protection, and outdoor recreation goals by involving federal, state, and local land managers along with various groups and individuals.
The first step in this process is an online survey seeking attitudes, observations, and opinions from a broad base, aiming to understand the biggest worries regarding access and the high-alpine environment. The survey also explores funding, asking who should pay for upkeep, education programs, and construction projects, and whether hikers would be willing to contribute.
This ambitious project aims to create a unified and coordinated approach to prepare for implementation and ensure sustainable and equitable access to Colorado’s beloved 14ers for generations to come.
Published at 7:35pm MT, April 6, 2023.
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