GOCO to offer $5 million in grants to restore flood-ravaged parks, trails, open space

To help flood-ravaged communities restore damaged or destroyed parks, trails and open spaces, Great Outdoors Colorado will provide up to $5 million in emergency grant funds, the GOCO board has announced.

Communities in the 11 counties declared federal disaster areas after the flooding in mid September will be eligible to apply for the special GOCO grants starting next week. The grants, which are funded by GOCO’s portion of Colorado Lottery revenues, will be awarded in April, 2014.

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“The state has done an excellent job of quickly repairing damaged roads and infrastructure and finding new housing for those who were displaced,” said Lise Aangeenbrug, GOCO executive director. “But these communities have told us they will not be made completely whole until their parks, trails and open spaces that people use daily or weekly are restored as well.

“Communities are particularly concerned because citizens are trying to access and use the recreation areas despite the damage and sometimes unsafe conditions,” Aangeenbrug said. “Coloradans love the outdoors, and we want to help bring back what the floods washed away. We need to get these popular areas back open and safe for people to use as soon as possible.”

GOCO’s flood recovery initiative is designed to be flexible so as to fit communities’ various needs, such as matching Federal Emergency Management Agency funding or to pay for items FEMA cannot, said Jim Smith, GOCO board chair. FEMA can only pay to replace what was lost without any modifications.

Grantees also can use funds to employ youth corps or volunteers to perform repair work, Smith said.

“Repairing trails damaged in the floods is another important step to reconnecting communities,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said. “These trails link all of us to Colorado’s unbeatable natural beauty and help promote the kind of active, outdoor spirit that helps make our state great. We appreciate GOCO’s efforts to further help local communities recover and rebuild.”

Priority will be given to communities with the highest percentage of loss and those that have the least financial ability to match FEMA funding or make repairs on their own. FEMA provides up to 75 percent while the state is giving 12.5 percent, leaving communities to raise the remaining 12.5 percent.

Because the funding will not be enough to meet all the needs, GOCO is looking for partners to help these communities. Outdoor companies, led by ActiveBoulder and the Outdoor Industry Association, and other corporate partners have already stepped up and raised $100,000 for the Fund to Restore Colorado’s Trails, Waterways and Parks to help communities.

“Outdoor recreation drives Colorado’s quality of life and our local economies,” said Kim Coupounas, co-founder of Boulder-based GoLite. “We will not fully recover until our parks and trails are back up and running.”

More information about the initiative and will be available by Dec. 20 at goco.org/flood. Applications will be available by request. The board will award grants April 3.

GOCO staff visited many damaged sites this fall and will continue to monitor flood repair efforts so that they can respond to specific needs quickly and adjust future GOCO grant programs if needed.

GOCO has provided similar emergency or special assistance after natural disasters, including park repairs after tornado damage in Prowers and Weld counties, and for trail restoration work by the Colorado Youth Corps Association after the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs.

In GOCO’s fall 2013 grant cycle, requests outstripped available funds by more than 2 to 1. Local government grants were the most popular with requests exceeding four times more than available funds. For every dollar GOCO granted, grantees were able to raise $2 in matching funds.

The Fund to Restore Colorado Trails, Waterways, and Parks is a donor-advised fund co-founded by ActiveBoulder and Outdoor Industry Association and hosted by Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, a 501(c)(3) organization. Grants from this fund go directly to help restore Colorado’s flood-damaged outdoor recreation spaces.