DENVER– The Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board awarded a $265,680 grant to Alamosa County on Thursday, in partnership with San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition, for an environmental education center at Rio Grande Farm Park (RGFP). This project received one of 17 Local Park and Outdoor Recreation grants awarded from a pool of 59 applications.
RGFP opened in 2016 as a multi-use park to promote economic development, healthy living, and education and recreation opportunities in the San Luis Valley. With its LPOR grant, the County will implement the second phase of park development with the addition of an environmental education center. Funding will also support new restrooms and updated electrical infrastructure.
“The County is grateful to GOCO and excited for the success of the Rio Grande Farm Park and we are proud to be the fiscal partner in helping them see this project through,” said Alamosa County Commissioner Chairman Michael Yohn.
The Local Foods Coalition currently uses the park to offer environmental education programs focused on healthy soil and water, river habitats, healthy food, integrative farming, and environmental stewardship. The education center will enhance programming opportunities, as its indoor classrooms will provide space for year-round lessons, a laboratory for science experiments, and a computer station for online learning.
More than 6,500 community members visit the park or participate in programming each year. School groups attend field trips, local youth participate in enrichment programs and summer camps, and annual festivals draw in families from across Colorado. The addition of an indoor environmental education center will increase capacity to expand park offerings and host more events.
“We are thrilled to partner with Alamosa County and GOCO to advance environmental education and infrastructure at the Rio Grande Farm Park,” said Local Foods Coalition director Liza Marron. “This project will also allow park users to have access to bathrooms and electricity as they enjoy the outdoors. Additionally, this project came through the Alamosa Inspire Initiative (Project Wild). Furthermore youth from the Boys & Girls Clubs of the SLV and Ortega Middle School helped create the many ideas and concepts that were included in the grant application.”
The park is located along the Rio Grande and within walking distance for more than 4,000 residents. A pedestrian bridge connects the property to nearby Cole Park as well as a library, shops, and restaurants. The 11-mile Alamosa Trail system also runs through the property, which connects to Alamosa Riparian Park, Adams State University, Alamosa Wildlife Refuge, and several residential neighborhoods.
Planning for the park and environmental education center is rooted in community priorities. Local youth face barriers to the outdoors, and the opioid epidemic has had a significant impact on the community. The variety of free programming offered at RGFP provides an accessible way to get outside and serves as a positive influence in the community toolbox to prevent vulnerable youth from using substances.
Center construction will begin in May and continue through the summer and fall. A grand opening is scheduled for April 2021.
To date, GOCO has invested more than $7.4 million in projects in Alamosa County and conserved more than 29,000 acres of land there. GOCO funding has supported previous phases of RGFP; Recreation Inspires Opportunity (Alamosa RIO!), one of 15 Generation Wild communities in Colorado; and Cole Park Skatepark, among other projects.
Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers, and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts, and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created when voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 5,200 projects in all 64 counties of Colorado without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.