GOCO awards grants to local parks

ALAMOSA — The Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board awarded a total of  $1,942,586 in youth corps and open space grants to projects in your district.

The City of Alamosa received a $16,600 youth corps grant to hire Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) to construct and maintain trails on several municipal properties, adding six miles to an existing network of 15 miles of trail. Colorado Open Lands (COL) received a $925,986 open space grant for its Conejos Ranchland Initiative, which aims to protect important agricultural lands in Conejos County. The Board also awarded a $1,000,000 open space grant to Southern Plains Land Trust (SPLT) to acquire and conserve land that will add an additional 6,614 acres to Heartland Ranch Nature Preserve in Bent County, creating a larger, contiguous protected area of critical wildlife habitat.

The first grant is part of GOCO’s Colorado Youth Corps Association (CYCA) grant program, and will help the City of Alamosa hire SCC crews to construct new trails and improve existing trails at Alamosa Riparian Park, at Alamosa City Ranch, and on the city’s southside. Alamosa has expanded its trail network in recent years, creating additional, ongoing need for care and maintenance.

Opened to the public in September of 2019, Alamosa Riparian Park is a 203-acre open space located along the Rio Grande 

just northwest of Alamosa. SCC crews will improve and reroute trails located along an eroding part of the stream bank there. Corp members may also be used to replant willows and cottonwood saplings along the river to help reestablish bird and fish habitat.

As a second part of the project, SCC crews will help improve the Rio Inspire Trails, a series of singletrack trails at Alamosa City Ranch. The trails have been damaged by flooding caused by excessive snowpack runoff. Corps members will engage in corridor clearing, tread work, and footbridge construction to help with drainage and protect the trails from further flood damage.

SCC crews will also finish trail construction at South Alamosa’s Malm Trail and install fences between City-owned property and private property along the trail.

In addition, GOCO funded CYCA projects that impact broad swaths of the state. To learn more about them, read the program press release.

The second grant is part of GOCO’s open space grant program. With this funding, COL will work with the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) and Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) to conserve the 500-acre Rancho la Luz, the 433-acre Jackson Ranch, the 160-acre Crowther Meadows Ranch, and the 587-acre Caldon Cattle Company property, all located in the Conejos River floodplain near Manassa. These properties are some of the oldest ranches in Colorado. Conserving them is an important step in protecting a historically significant agricultural landscape and diverse ecosystem.

All four ranches are currently in operation and will continue operations once conserved. In addition to helping maintain the region’s agricultural heritage, conserving the properties will protect 3.48 miles of active channels of the Conejos and San Antonio rivers as well as over 700 acres of persistent wetlands, wet meadows, marshes, and dense willow and cottonwood galleries.

The third grant is also part of GOCO’s open space grant program and will help SPLT expand Heartland Ranch Nature Preserve by purchasing a 6,614-acre parcel of the adjacent Jagers Ranch. The Jagers parcel acquisition will protect 7.4 miles of Arkansas River tributaries.

The Jagers property is highly biodiverse, with critical habitat for leopard frog, swift fox, golden eagle, ferruginous hawk, burrowing owl, horned lizard, and the potential reintroduction of black-footed ferret.

The property contains short grass prairie, dramatic rock-covered mesas, lush canyons and bottomlands, perennial springs, and juniper woodlands that serve as feeding and breeding grounds for bison, pronghorn, and elk herds. Conservation of this property advances Colorado Parks & Wildlife’s conservation plan for grassland species in the area that the Colorado Natural Heritage Program considers of high biodiversity significance.

The conserved property will be owned and managed by SPLT. Colorado Open Lands will hold the conservation easement, as it does for the existing preserve.

In addition, GOCO has funded open space projects that impact broad swaths of the state. To learn more about them, read the program press release.