Great Outdoors Colorado responded to the plight of job losses during the pandemic with a $136,158 grant to the Coalition for the Upper South Platte.

A nonprofit known for mitigation work, CUSP will use the funds to enhance forestry health while giving employment to three people.

The grant request was unusual for the coalition.

“We developed the grant to specifically hire a field crew of people who lost jobs due to COVID,” said John Geerdes, executive director of CUSP. “We will re-train them in natural resources, for our chipping program, our slash sites or forestry, or whatever, to give them a whole new skill set.”

The projects highlight the work of CUSP such as river restoration, tree-planting and trails. “And whatever else we come up with,” Geerdes said.

As well, CUSP will train the employees in basic firefighting techniques and chainsaw handling. “It’s kind of interesting because typically GOCO doesn’t give grants to nonprofits, but they liked this idea,” Geerdes said.

The grant serves a two-fold purpose. “The grant helps us accomplish the work that wasn’t done,” said Jane Mannon, CUSP’s director of development and outreach. “There needs to be a lot more forestry and fire-mitigation work and we need trained people to do that.”

GOCO has invested more than $10.8 million in projects in Teller County and conserved more than 4,400 acres of land there, states a recent news release. GOCO funding has supported Mountain View Adventure Park, Mueller State Park, the conservation of Markus Ranch, and Gateway Elementary playground, among other projects.

Great Outdoors Colorado invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Created when voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 5,300 projects in all 64 counties of Colorado without any tax dollar support.

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