The Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board recently awarded three grants totaling $523,030 for projects in Jefferson County. The City of Arvada, in partnership with North Arvada Middle School, received …
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The Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board recently awarded three grants totaling $523,030 for projects in Jefferson County.
The City of Arvada, in partnership with North Arvada Middle School, received a $110,000 School Yard Initiative grant; the City of Lakewood, in partnership with Warren Technical High School, received a $63,030 School Yard Initiative grant; and Evergreen Park and Recreation District (EPRD) received a $350,000 Local Park and Outdoor Recreation grant to acquire 2.2 acres of property connecting Buchanan and Bergen Parks.
School Yard Initiative grants help schools, which apply in partnership with their local governments, build outdoor spaces where kids enjoy unstructured play and outdoor learning. All school yards must be designed, in part, by students.
Warren Tech will use its grant funding to expand on an existing outdoor education center. Warren Tech provides students with the opportunity to learn trades and earn college credit while still in high school, and many of its programs have an outdoor learning focus. This expansion will give students more opportunities to develop career-building skills outside.
Currently, school grounds offer a farm where students can learn about planting and harvesting crops, and the existing outdoor classroom. Planned expansions include an outdoor kitchen, walking trail with native plants and educational signage, a chicken coop and a shaded picnic area. Students will use these spaces as part of classroom activities and during recreation time. Members of the public will also have access to certain spaces outside of school hours.
The additions will also allow the school to host workshops and other events for community groups.
“It's a community hub,” Liz Hudd, science instructional specialist at Warren Tech, said of the schools outdoor space. “And the GOCO grant is going to be really important in finishing it.”
Hudd said the project is more than just a school yard initiative. It's a natural playground to learn about the environment, where your food comes from and how to prepare food.
North Arvada Middle
Arvada North Middle School will use GOCO funds to build an outdoor obstacle course on school grounds. Before the recent addition of a community garden, the only outdoor amenities at the school were a basketball court, gravel track, and two four-square courts. North Arvada offers no school-sponsored sports teams, so the obstacle course will provide needed outdoor play opportunities for students.
The obstacle course will be available to students during recess and before and after school and will be open to the public outside of school hours. According to the school's application, local Boy Scout troops, church groups, and athletic teams plan to use the course for practices and team-building exercises.
Erika Meyer, program officer for youth initiatives with GOCO, said what's unique about these projects is that this is the first time since the grant launched in 2013, that a middle school and high school have been awarded funds.
“Initially, it was really geared toward updating elementary playgrounds,” Meyer said. “It's great to see that these schools that serve older students are recognizing the importance of outdoor play and learning and prioritize that.”
The GOCO Local Park and Outdoor Recreation grant received by the Evergreen Parks and Recreation District will help purchase 2.2 acres of private residential property in order to connect Buchanan and Bergen Parks and prevent future private development on the land. The property is in the northwest corner of Buchanan Park, with Denver's 25-acre Bergen Park to its north and Jefferson County's 1475-acre Elk Meadow Park to its south. It is the last piece of privately owned residential property in 1,540 acres of contiguous parkland in North Evergreen.
To date, GOCO has invested more than $46.4 million in projects in Jefferson County and has conserved more than 6,400 acres of land there. GOCO funding has supported Staunton State Park, South Table Mountain, the acquisition of Applewood Golf Course and the Peaks to Plains Trail, among other projects.
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