Governor Jared Polis signed HB21-1318 into law on June 21, officially creating the Colorado Outdoor Equity Grant Program. This initiative brings much-needed funding to provide engaging and meaningful outdoor experiences to underserved youth and their families. The bill’s cosponsors, Representatives Leslie Herod and David Ortiz, Senate President Leroy García, and Senator Sonya Jaquez Lewis, joined Governor Polis at the Lincoln Hills Flyfishing Club to mark the occasion, along with members from over 60+ outdoor advocacy and conservation organizations that have supported this bill.
Funded by additional dollars from the Colorado Lottery, the Outdoor Equity Grant Program will provide $750,000 in its first year to groups providing outdoor education and experiences for underserved youth and families.
“Today’s signing of the Colorado Outdoor Equity Grant Program marks the beginning of closing the racial ‘nature gap,’ so that all of our kids can enjoy the outdoors,” states Jared Bynum, Communities & Justice Advocate, Conservation Colorado. “This Grant Program will help reduce barriers and make our outdoors more inclusive of Colorado’s underserved youth. We applaud Representative Leslie Herod and fellow bill sponsors for their leadership on this legislation, and Governor Polis for signing this bill into law.”
Over the following four years, funding is expected at $3,000,000 annually. Additionally, HB21-1326, which transfers funds from the general fund to support outdoor recreation, will provide another $1 million to the Program in its first year.
Grants may be used to support outdoor program expenses, cover the cost of gear and equipment rentals, provide staffing, and acquire transportation to and from sites. The Grant Program will center its funding on low-income youth, youth with disabilities, LGBTQ+ populations, and racially and ethnically diverse Coloradans.
The Coalition supporting this program looks forward to working with Colorado Parks & Wildlife to recruit and seat a board that is representative of the community, organizations, and youth that this initiative was created to serve.
“I look forward to witnessing the immense impact – particularly health-wise – that the outdoor education and experiences will have on our underserved youth, thanks to this bill,” states Shaina Oliver, Parent Leader/Community Organizer, EcoMadres and Mom’s Clean Air Force, Colorado Chapter.
Julie Reiskin, Executive Director, Colorado Cross Disability Coalition (CCDC), adds that “this bill will offer kids with disabilities the outdoor recreation opportunities that they didn’t think were possible, and that can positively impact their lives for years to come.”
Outdoor Equity Fund Coalition members are enthusiastic and grateful for this bill passage. Brian Kurzel, Rocky Mountain Regional Executive Director, National Wildlife Federation, believes that “access to nature, and to its amazing health benefits, is a human right. Many thanks to Representative Herod and all of the bill’s cosponsors for their leadership in addressing this critical need in our state.”
“As an organization that has spent decades providing outdoor experiences to children, we are thankful that the State of Colorado is supporting our shared goal of inclusivity and engagement for youth in the outdoors,” says Ellen Reid, Executive Director, Keystone Science School.
Bill supporters recognize the tremendous importance and influence of the Outdoor Equity Grant Program. Seth Ehrlich, Executive Director of SOS Outreach, believes this is a “significant milestone and celebration in Colorado’s history and continued journey towards having equitable spaces. We are honored to be a part of this movement and to share in the vision of a more inclusive state and outdoor community.”
To learn more about the Outdoor Equity Grant Program and the coalition behind the cause, please view this Fact Sheet.
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