In early December 2021, Basalt-based Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers (RFOV) announced that it had received a $298,490 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), the state-run agency that invests money from the Colorado Lottery in a variety of environment- and outdoors-related projects throughout the state. It was the largest single grant to RFOV in its 26-year history.
In a press release, GOCO said the two-year grant would “address growing stewardship needs in the Roaring Fork Valley resulting from increased recreation and wildfires.”
“We are thrilled to receive this support and endorsement from GOCO,” Rebecca Schild, RFOV’s executive director, said at that time. She added, “RFOV is well-positioned to build off our strong foundation and effectively scale our stewardship efforts to address the changing needs of our region.”
According to its website, RFOV “promotes stewardship of our public lands by engaging our community in education, restoration and conservation projects.” Its three principal focus areas are sustainable recreation (building and maintaining trails), healthy landscapes (restoring degraded trails and habitat) and fire adaptation (fire mitigation and restoration). Each year it coordinates and runs a variety of projects proposed by some 50 organizations — ranging from federal agencies like the U.S. Forest Service to businesses like Independence Run & Hike — as well as by between 30 to 50 student and other groups (e.g., the Buddy Program or even a family reunion).
Recent notable projects have included building trails at the Sutey Ranch conservation easement near Carbondale, restoring degraded ranchland in the Lazy Glen open space in Snowmass Canyon and mitigation work done on the Lake Christine Fire burn scar.
One major undertaking, beginning in 2020, was coordinating the establishment of the Glenwood Canyon Restoration Alliance, a multi-organizational consortium of municipal and nonprofit stakeholders in the canyon region that is dedicated to a multiyear restoration of the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar in and around the canyon.
Schild, speaking recently with the Sopris Sun about the GOCO grant, described it as “capacity building,” which will “help us fill out our planned programs.” She continued, “Our trails program has been strong, but we want to strengthen the [habitat] restoration and fire [mitigation and restoration]” components of RFOV’s mission.
In addition, Schild said that RFOV wanted to “increase engagement” among volunteers, notably in western Garfield County. As she put it, “Different kinds of volunteers bring out diversity in the community.” The RFOV website notes that there are plans to significantly expand stewardship work in the Glenwood Springs to Parachute corridor in 2022.
Chief among the grant’s provisions is funding for the new full-time position of program coordinator, whose responsibilities will include working with youth groups (in particular, through RFOV’s Young Stewards Program and its partnership with the Buddy Program) and providing outreach to the newer groups the organization wants to involve.
Grant money will also be used to help purchase a used pickup truck to supplement “our well-used van.” Schild explained that the truck will “allow us to have more programs [that can] access more challenging trailheads.” In addition, the grant will allow RFOV to upgrade its volunteer registration system software and will provide additional training for land restoration and fire mitigation.
Schild was also excited about another project debuting in 2022. With funding provided by the 2020 federal Great American Outdoors Act and in collaboration with the Forest Service, RFOV will have a seasonal professional trail crew operating in the Maroon Bells-Sopris Wilderness. They will work with personnel from the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District to tackle a wide range of deferred trail maintenance and restoration in that popular and heavily used portion of the wilderness. “This is an important step for us,” she observed, “It’s the first time we have had a crew like this.”
In addition to the opportunities provided by those two funding sources, RFOV is moving ahead with hiring four more staff members. And, with money from a 2021 GOCO Resilient Communities program grant, it will increase its stewardship projects in Pitkin County, as well as continue to address ongoing restoration in Glenwood Canyon (including work to repair projects that were damaged by the summer 2021 debris slides).
In a radio interview last fall with Sopris Sun Editor Raleigh Burleigh, Jacob Baker, RFOV’s communications and engagement manager stated, “We take the ‘V’ in RFOV very seriously.” He continued, “We actually doubled the number of volunteer hours [in 2021], as compared to last year. People were eager and engaged and wanted to come out and really make a difference.”
Echoing that, and looking ahead to 2022 and beyond, Schild added, “The GOCO grant will allow us to do our work better. We will be better resourced to scale up our stewardship efforts and support land managers across our entire service area while offering rewarding experiences to a diverse pool of volunteers.”