Great Outdoors Colorado has awarded a $190,000 grant to Mesa County Public Health, funding a trail maintenance program for the next few years.

The grant is through GOCO’s Resilient Communities program, which was launched in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It will provide $15 million in grants to organizations around the state to support various goals including stewardship.

“This was a GOCO program that was targeted towards relief around COVID, but is still in line with a lot of their main principles of outdoor recreation, stewardship and conservation, under the broader umbrella of pandemic conditions,” Mesa County Public Health Trails Coordinator Ross Mittelman said.

The money will go toward a contract with Western Colorado Conservation Corps (WCCC) for a trail crew to perform maintenance work on local trails. The program is based off the Fruita Trails Initiative, which utilized a WCCC crew last fall to perform maintenance work. This program, which will begin this fall and continue into summer 2022, will be slightly larger and able to work on trails across the valley

“It’s a resource available to any of our partners that would like to use this crew for non-motorized trail work,” Mittelman said. “The crew will be expanded by one. It was a three person crew last year. We’re trying to offer some higher salaries to attract some high quality candidates and hopefully retain them over multiple years.”

The need for trail maintenance has only increased during the pandemic as more people have turned to outdoor recreation for entertainment. Mittelman said due to the higher usage trails, local trails are seeing more damage

“We applied for this grant as a means to sort of rectify some of those issues and provide operational support to our partners locally in the form of a trail maintenance crew,” Mittelman said.

Mittelman said they are still working to identify the trails the crew will work on and said they are taking input from partner organizations like the Bureau of Land Management and the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association. He said they are also working on providing a way for the public to provide feedback on what trails need work.

“We’re trying to involve the public as much as possible, encouraging them to come forward and potentially make recommendations on where this maintenance can occur,” Mittelman said. “We know a lot of people have their favorite trails out there. We’re not trying to change them, to sanitize them in any way, which I know can be controversial or discouraging for some.”

In addition to the grant Fruita, Grand Junction and COPMOBA together contributed a $10,000 match. Mesa County Public health and the BLM contributed $24,806 as an in-kind match.

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