To help flood-ravaged communities restore damaged or destroyed parks, trails and open spaces, Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) will provide up to $5 million in emergency grant funds, the GOCO board announced in December.
Communities in the eleven counties declared federal disaster areas after the flooding in mid September will be
eligible to apply for the special GOCO grants starting mid-January. The grants, which are funded by GOCO’s portion of Colorado Lottery revenues, will be awarded in April.
“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 added. “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.”
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.”
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.