Anita Evans and her team of volunteers have spent countless hours surveying community stakeholders, attending meetings, writing grants, collecting gear, and a thousand other small but important tasks, all in an effort to help bring Delta County together and offer richer outdoor recreational opportunities for the youth here. Evans and her crew have also worked tirelessly to build relationships with other groups interested in the same outcome: getting kids off screens, and outside.
A partnership has sprung up with the S&B Quilters Guild, which has pitched in to help in the best way they can: with the creation of a custom-designed, beautiful masterpiece of a quilt, which Evans will be able to use in her presentation to GOCO for grant funding for the Nature Connection. Six members of the guild, Connie Berry, Lynea Schultz-Ela, Lida Litey, Ann Perry, Robyn Reinhard, Pattie Timmerwilke, spent the past three months designing and stitching the quilt.
"There are certain things that represent a community, and here in Delta County, I think that it's our schools," Evans said. "Our communities really support our schools and our kids. People give because they care. [S&B] is an amazing group of talented and giving ladies. They're just wonderful. They really represent the heart of what Western Colorado is all about... in rural Colorado, kids really are our community, and everyone comes together."
After hearing one of Evans' presentations, guild members decided to help with the creation of the quilt. The quilt is a map of Delta County and Olathe, showcasing the rivers and mountain ranges, town and cities, and most importantly, the wide geographic spread of the area. The wall hanging-sized quilt features the Ragged Mountains and the West Elks, Grand Mesa and the Uncompahgre Plateau, nature stations and National Conservation Areas. The quilt also features the logos of all the organizations that have stepped up to partner in the effort, showcasing just how much community support is behind this initiative.
The Nature Connection is a hub of environmental education for youth in Delta County and Olathe. Evans has previously been successful in securing a planning grant for the initiative. Those funds helped the partnering organizations reach out to the community with in-depth surveys, seeking to find out what types of outdoor activities kids most want, and where there are gaps in the desired activities. From that work, the Nature Connection has begun building a gear library, and a comprehensive plan was drafted, which will direct efforts to get kids, and their families, outside and learning. The plan encompasses each community within Delta County, and Olathe, and highlights opportunities for outdoor education and recreation in each area, as well as develops additional places and programs for outdoor education and recreation, and pathways to jobs in the natural resource sector for high schoolers.
All that work led to the Nature Connection coalition applying for a $1.5 million, three-year grant from the GOCO Inspire program. Those grant funds will be used for implementation of the plan. In a few weeks, Evans and other members of the coalition will go before the grant-funding board to pitch their proposal. What sets apart this grant proposal is the large geographical area it encompasses, Evans said. Most of the other grant-seekers are representing small urban areas or a single neighborhood. "It's been a challenge for us, to get across the idea of the need here," Evans said. "We're dealing with transportation issues, we're economically depressed, and we have six communities that stretch an area roughly the size of Rhode Island." That's why she's so excited about the quilt, she said. The quilt will make an excellent visual aid to help explain to the GOCO board just how spread out Delta County is, and how very much this area needs financial assistance to help get more kids outdoors. "This quilt will help us better present all these ideas to the GOCO board and employees," she said. "It's a visual of who we are... a rural, connected community with support from a lot of people."
S&B Quilt Guild members presented Evans with the quilt last week at their annual picnic. "It's beautiful, and these ladies are amazing people, and amazing artists," Evans said. "There is so much amazing support from this community."
The quilt, after being used in the GOCO presentation, will hang at the Nature Connection offices in Hotchkiss, where it can be viewed. Evans said the group will hear in December if they've been successful in earning the Inspire grant.
Calling all volunteers! Fort Uncompahgre on the Old Spanish Trail has received six new tipis that will be used as outdoor classrooms in conjunction with the Nature Connection. John Hardy has volunteered to lead a group of folks who are willing to learn how to set up the tipis and pitch in where necessary.