Strengthening Local Economies: Governor Announces Outdoor Recreation Grant Recipients

Photo by Andrew Gloor on Unsplash
Supporting local economic development and increased access to the outdoors across the Western Slope to Southern Colorado
Recently, Governor Polis and the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office (OREC) of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) announced the final 15 recipients of the Colorado State Outdoor Recreation grant (COSORG). Since October 2022, these grants have helped fund regional projects across the state that are advancing Colorado’s outdoor recreation industry and strengthening local economies.
The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) works with partners to create a positive business climate that encourages dynamic economic development and sustainable job growth.
The Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office (OREC) provides a central point of contact, advocacy, and resources at the state level for the diverse constituents, businesses, and communities that rely on the continued health of the outdoor recreation economy.
“Colorado’s world-class outdoors are a lot of fun and an important economic engine for our state by providing incredible recreation opportunities for Coloradans and visitors. We are proud to support more organizations in our state that are driving this industry. This support will help more people enjoy the great outdoors,” said Governor Jared Polis.
The grants announced will support workforce development, sustainability efforts, and marketing initiatives in communities from Eagle to Fruita and Guffey to Pueblo. Recipients will implement new post-secondary certificate programs, create new jobs, develop apps, and launch marketing campaigns that promote outdoor recreation, among other initiatives.
“Outdoor recreation is a vital part of Colorado’s identity and a strong contributor to our economy. The 15 grant recipients announced today are working on a wide variety of projects across the state that demonstrate the many forms outdoor recreation can take. Collectively, they are helping to grow this important industry so Colorado’s economy works for everyone,” said Eve Lieberman, OEDIT’s Executive Director.
This was the fourth and final review period for the COSORG program, which was made possible by funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) State Tourism Grant. In total, more than $3.7 million has been awarded to 50 projects in 27 counties. Approximately 284 jobs have been directly supported, with indirect benefits impacting hundreds of jobs. The awarded grants have also supported efforts to make the outdoor recreation industry more inclusive and accessible, through outdoor experiences for BIPOC youth, cancer survivors, and Spanish-speaking populations, among others.
“Over the last year, the OREC team has met with Coloradans across the state and had the opportunity to see the impact of these grants first hand. The recipients are increasing access to the outdoors, bolstering destination stewardship and conservation, creating jobs and a diversified workforce to fill them, boosting their local economies and proving every day that a thriving outdoor recreation industry is good for the whole state,” said OREC Director Conor Hall.
The 15 grant recipients are:
Big City Mountaineers (BCM)   Arvada, Colorado – $60,000
To support the Leaders program, which will provide continued leadership development for alumni of BCM’s youth programming. Funding will support staff wages, operating expenses, and contractual services which will enhance training services within BCM.
City of Pueblo – Pueblo, Colorado – $100,000
To develop a municipal Office of Outdoor Recreation. This will be the second of its kind in Colorado and among the first municipal outdoor recreation offices nationwide. The Pueblo Office of Outdoor Recreation will provide a central point of contact, advocacy, and resources for the many area businesses and individuals that rely on the continued health of the outdoor economy.
Colorado Mountain College – Glenwood Springs, Colorado – $78,000
To support the development of a Ski Industry Trade Certifications program. Funding will support wages for a Curriculum Coordinator, along with associated travel and indirect expenses.
Colorado Museum of Natural History (d.b.a Denver Museum of Nature and Science) – Denver, Colorado – $100,000
To develop four pilot episodes of a television series highlighting outdoor recreation opportunities in under-visited parts of Colorado. Funding will support production and equipment expenses related to the proposed television series.
Colorado State University – Fort Collins, Colorado – $70,000
To support the development of a Sustainable Outdoor Product Design certificate program and complete a Digital Asset Mapping project. Funding will support personnel wages, operating expenses, and indirect costs for both projects. The Sustainable Outdoor Product Design certificate will be the third of its kind in the U.S. and the first in Colorado. Additionally, Digital Asset Mapping of Colorado’s outdoor recreation businesses and resources will serve as the bedrock of outdoor recreation community economic development initiatives statewide.
Gold Belt Tour Scenic & Historic Byway Association – Guffey, Colorado – $60,000
To support the development of TravelStorys digital apps for Colorado Scenic Byways. Funding will support personnel and contractual expenses for the development of digital marketing materials through TravelStorys. The Gold Belt Tour Scenic & Historic Byway Association is working with partners around the state to bring this platform to scenic drives throughout Colorado.
Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation – Denver, Colorado – $100,000
To support the development of the OutdoorCO Lifestyle Vertical, a statewide outdoor recreation industry business alliance to promote the industry and attract new businesses to Colorado. Funding will support operating and contractual expenses related to business recruitment and marketing for Colorado outdoor recreation industry partners.
Middle Colorado Watershed Council – Rifle, Colorado – $20,012.55
To support outreach efforts to users of the Colorado River. A River Running Guide to the Middle Colorado River was published in 2021 to mitigate adverse impacts of recreation through education and provide guidance on safe and accessible information for users. Funds will be used to print additional copies of the guide and support the activation of the River Stop educational center.
Ouray Ice Park – Ouray, Colorado – $200,000
To support operational expenses related to the Our Water, Our Future campaign. This project will diversify the ice park’s water source and decrease pressure on the local community to regulate water usage.
Overland Mountain Bike Association (OMBA) – Fort Collins, Colorado – $82,166
To hire two positions in support of mountain biking opportunities and events in Northern Colorado. Funding will support wages for the Executive Director, as well as a Membership & Outreach Coordinator and Trails Program Director. OMBA will expand operations to include additional trail services as well as enhanced outreach and marketing for regional biking events, which provide direct economic benefits to communities through tourism impacts.
Routt County Economic Development Partnership – Steamboat Springs, Colorado – $65,740
To help increase capacity for the Yampa Valley Outdoor Recreation Coalition (YVORC). Funding will support existing staff salaries to launch and manage a business retention and expansion (BRE) program focused on outdoor recreation industry recovery and growth in Routt County.
Vail Valley Foundation – Avon, Colorado – $45,000
To support operations for the 2024 GoPro Mountain Games. Funding will support marketing and contractual expenses related to operation of the event in June 2024.
Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance – Avon, Colorado – $40,000
To support the Soul Dirt program to engage local businesses in OutdoorsRx principles. OutdoorsRx was published by the OREC office in 2018 to promote public health through outdoor recreation, and the Soul Dirt program implements these through partnerships with businesses in the Vail Valley to encourage corporate wellness programs and employee incentives for outdoor recreation.
Vail Valley Partnership – Eagle, Colorado – $20,000
To support the Future Forward Outdoor Industry Strategy Summit. Funding will support staff wages and operating expenses related to the summit occurring in 2024.
Western State Colorado University – Gunnison, Colorado – $100,000
To support the buildout of an outdoor industry lab. Funding will support the purchase of lab equipment and supplies. This project will be the next step in making rural Colorado a hub for entrepreneurship and workforce development for years to come.
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