Letter to the editor: Finding new ways to connect communities to the outdoors
Working for the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, I’m often asked, “What’s your favorite thing about the trail?” And while it’s always hard to pinpoint my favorite place along the 3,100-mile-long corridor, by far my favorite experience is taking someone on the trail for the first time and seeing their sense of wonder at all the Continental Divide has to offer.
Motivated by that first-time sense of wonder, a grassroots coalition of organizations from across the state advocated for a Colorado Outdoor Equity Fund. This coalition noticed that while people from all over the world come to Colorado to experience our state’s iconic 14ers and world-renowned destinations like the Continental Divide Trail, many youths in Colorado face significant barriers in experiencing the natural wonders in their own backyards.
Gov. Jared Polis recently signed The Outdoor Equity Grant Program (HB21-1318) into law, bringing us one step closer to guaranteeing that all youths — no matter their background, income or ability — have the opportunity for transformational education experiences in the outdoors. The legislation provides funding to underserved communities to better connect youths to the outdoors by covering programming costs, transportation and equipment. Using Colorado Lottery money, the program will receive $750,000 in 2021 and reach $3 million by the end of its fourth year.
As the Biden administration and federal agencies undertake the “America the Beautiful” Initiative, it will become increasingly important to consider how protections for land and water benefit communities that have chronically been barred from the equitable enjoyment of these special places. Fortunately, community leaders and legislators in states like Colorado are providing a framework to help equitably achieve goals like 30×30 with locally led initiatives.
Thank you to the legislative champions of this bill, including Reps. Leslie Herod and David Ortiz, and Sens. Leroy Garcia and Sonya Jaquez Lewis.
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