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County backs program to get kids out of doors

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The Delta County Commissioners agreed on Monday to write a letter of support and/or adopt a resolution in support of a grant request by The Nature Connection.

Three board members of The Nature Connection -- Steve Rist, Anita Evans and Anne Janik -- explained to the BoCC that even with this county's extensive public lands resources, the area's youth are not experiencing the outdoors nor developing the skills needed to become successful in outdoor activities. That is due in large measure of the expense, they said.

The county commissioners donated $5,000 to The Nature Connection in 2015 for a planning grant. The group used the grant to develop a comprehensive plan for facilities, programs and equipment acquisition that will be used to help get youth and their families involved in outdoor activities.

The Nature Connection is now looking toward a $1.5 million to $2.2 million grant application to the GOCO Inspire program for money to put its ambitious plans into action. They have enlisted community support from local governments in Delta County and Olathe.

Evans said, "There is so much need. Kids around here are very deprived in recreation and outdoors opportunities and skills. We want to fill the gap."

Janik told the BoCC their group "wants to engage youth on public lands" with experiences that could lead eventually to jobs with public lands agencies.

Among projects the group explained to the BoCC was completion of a long-planned watercraft put-in at the Hotchkiss fairgrounds.

The Nature Connection board members were accompanied in their presentation by two confident and well-spoken young men -- Ethan Bates, an eighth grader and project coordinator, and Dakota Waybill, president of Youth Outdoor Network -- who also helped explain the program's vision and goals.

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commissioners, The Nature Connection
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