Sustainability improvements include designated camping, Shady Island
[ By Katherine Nettles ]
The Gunnison County Sustainable Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Program was awarded a Starburst Award this month in recognition of its work in the past three years to make sustainability improvements across the Gunnison Valley. The award recognizes excellence in the use of lottery funds already deployed, specifically two Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grants the county was awarded in 2019 and 2020 totaling $810,000.
There were eight total 2022 Starburst Award winners, chosen based on the creativity of the project, economic and social impact on the community, and whether the project achieved its goal.
The two grants referenced by the award, a $350,000 GOCO Stewardship Impact grant the county received in 2019 and a $450,000 GOCO Resilient Communities grant received in 2020 originated as lottery proceeds which are distributed statewide. The funds were used in Gunnison County “to support the work of the STOR Committee including capacity building, staffing, stewardship work with Crested Butte Conservation Corps, Gunnison Trails, Crested Butte Land Trust, and CB Avalanche Center,” explained Cathie Pagano, Gunnison County assistant county manager for community and economic development.
The award recognized the STOR Committee for its work in a Colorado Lottery press release this summer: “Negative environmental impacts affecting the Gunnison community from increased visitation to public lands, evolving recreation styles, human and wildlife interaction, and climate change drove the county’s decision to make sustainability improvements. Approached collaboratively, the community created the STOR program, which brings together stakeholders to better navigate a variety of land use issues.”
Joe Lavorini, Gunnison County stewardship coordinator and Southwest Colorado program manager for the National Forest Foundation, detailed the STOR committee’s work. “With those funds, we were able to implement the designated camping project around Crested Butte, construct the Shady Island River Park in Gunnison, build a toilet at Tent City, create Leave No Trace messaging throughout the valley, and employ the STOR Corps conservation corps, among other accomplishments,” he said.
The Starburst Award was presented to STOR at the conclusion of a volunteer event at Trail Creek near Gunnison on Thursday, August 25. The STOR Corps and STOR Committee are working on the Trail Creek Wetland Restoration Project to restore degraded wetlands and mimicking the role of beavers in the ecosystem.
Other winners and lottery funds used were City of Loveland ($850,000), City of Greeley ($719,515), Carbon Valley Parks and Recreation District ($221,901), Larimer County Dept. of Natural Resources ($500,000), Aspen Valley Land Trust ($2.5 million), Cheyenne Mountain State Park ($302,500) and City of Lamar ($502,910). Submissions included programs and projects such as parks, playgrounds, outdoor recreation facilities, land conservation, trail enhancement, open space acquisition, wildlife natural resource preservation, and public school capital improvements, according to the Lottery.
The statewide grant distribution of lottery funds is done through grants via GOCO, the Conservation Trust Fund (CTF), Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), which manages the Outdoor Equity Fund, and Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST).