Governor Polis and CPW Expanding Funding for Youth Outdoor Education

In a significant move to enhance outdoor educational opportunities for youth across Colorado, Governor Jared Polis, alongside Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), has announced an increase in funding for the Outdoor Equity Grant Program (OEGP). An additional $200,000 annually will now support organizations dedicated to providing outdoor recreation and conservation opportunities for underserved youth. This expansion aims to foster a deeper connection between young Coloradans and the natural beauty of their state.

Since its inception in 2021, the OEGP has funneled over $5.5 million into initiatives that bring environmental learning, outdoor education, and exposure to conservation career pathways to underserved youth, thanks to the support from Colorado Lottery funds. Despite the significant funding, the demand for grants has consistently outstripped the available resources, a gap the CPW is now addressing with this additional investment from CPW Cash Funds.

The latest funding boost will benefit several organizations, including Access Unbound, Mile High Youth Corps, and the Center for Rural Outreach and Public Services, enhancing their efforts in adaptive snowsports, conservation career training, and outdoor adventure programs, respectively. Furthermore, the African American Leadership Group will receive substantial support for launching their Outdoor Equity Program.

CPW Director Jeff Davis emphasized the transformative impact of outdoor experiences on youth, highlighting the department’s commitment to inclusivity and accessibility in outdoor activities. The additional funding is expected to provide transformative experiences for hundreds of Colorado kids, instilling in them a lifelong appreciation for the outdoors.

In 2023 alone, the program received nearly 240 grant applications, totaling over $17 million in requests, underscoring the pressing need for increased funding. With the latest investment, CPW aims to ensure the full Lottery transfer of up to $3 million will be awarded annually, starting from December 2023.

The Outdoor Equity Grant Program is open to organizations statewide, providing outdoor recreation, education, and conservation opportunities to youth aged 0 – 25, with a particular focus on those from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds, low-income families, LGBTQ+ communities, American Indian or Native youth, and those with disabilities.

This policy announcement reflects a growing recognition of the importance of outdoor education in promoting environmental stewardship and public health among the youth of Colorado. It’s a step forward in ensuring that all children, regardless of their background, have the opportunity to experience, enjoy, and learn from the great outdoors.

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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In 2018, I watched in disbelief as dozens of people hiked into a storm on Longs Peak, unaware of the extreme danger. Soon after, I started The Next Summit to educate and empower the public to safely and responsibly explore America's mountains.

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