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Nature Connection awarded $1.7M

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Photo by Tamie Meck Anita Evans, director of The Nature Connection, announced the Inspire grant award to a crowded house at the Paradise Theatre on Monday, Dec. 18. The funds will be used to implement a very detailed plan to connect kids to the outdoors t

On Dec. 15, the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) board awarded an Inspire Initiative grant in the amount of $1,729,663.50 to Delta County and a coalition of partners called The Nature Connection (TNC), for the group's work to get kids outside.

Locally, announcement of the award was made at opening night of the 2017 Backcountry Film Festival opened in Paonia.

Anita Evans, director of TNC, excitedly displayed the check from GOCO. "We have worked, along with our partners, for over two years to come up with a very detailed plan to connect kids to the outdoors through The Nature Connection with this grant," she said.

The TNC board, which includes representation from the school district, Delta County, Colorado Parks & Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service, town governments, and other local organizations, worked diligently with community partners and resources to create a competitive grant application submitted in July 2017.

The grant will fund extensive place, program, and pathway development in six communities, Delta, Olathe, Cedaredge, Hotchkiss, Paonia, and Crawford, along with 140 youth internships and seven community jobs over the three-year grant cycle. The program is expected to impact more than 6,000 youth in the area.

Funding for trail and park development, the expansion and installation of gear hubs in Hotchkiss, Delta and Cedaredge, and plans for educational outdoor programming are all included in the grant award.

A portion of the grant supports executive director and program director positions for The Nature Connection. Delta County School District advertised the positions beginning Dec. 5; the application period ended Dec. 18. Evans hopes to announce the filled positions in early 2018.

The grant application included an over $1.2 million match from community sponsors and organizations. "We could not have accomplished this without our partners," Evans explains.

Delta County's grant is one of nine Inspire Initiative implementation awards made in this cycle totaling $14.125 million. The funding brings GOCO's investment in Inspire to date to more than $29 million, including a $4 million grant from the Colorado Health Foundation, a $75,000 grant from the Boettcher Foundation for rural communities, and a $50,000 donation from DaVita.

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