Students from Battle Mountain High School crowd around a tripod. The sun is setting and the temperature has dropped two-fold in the last hour, but they will have to withstand the cold a little longer. They are preparing their film equipment at the base of Lake Creek Road to catch the February sunset over the New York Range. These students are telling the story of the Edwards community and how access to the outdoors can, and needs to be improved for the betterment of the community as a whole.
These are the Youth Advisors for the Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement (EVOM) – a grant planning effort in the Eagle Valley – and they are in the midst of filming a documentary in support of this initiative. Through grant funding provided by the Great Outdoors Colorado Inspire Initiative, Walking Mountains Science Center, Youth Power 365, SOS Outreach, Eagle County Schools, Eagle County Health and Environment, and the Youth Advisors are shepherding the Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement into reality. This coalition aims to comprehensively engage the Edwards community in local ecology and environmentalism by improving outdoor places, outdoor programming in schools and pathways to careers in the outdoors.
Created by voters in 1992, the state of Colorado sets aside a percentage of lottery proceeds to fund outdoor recreation, stewardship, and rehabilitation. This is Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and the program has committed more than $917 million since its inception with no taxpayer burden. If you live in the Eagle Valley you may have walked the Eagle Valley Trail or visited the Eagle River Preserve – both recipients of GOCO funding. In 2015 GOCO changed course: with the Inspire Initiative GOCO is aiming to connect all youth and their families to the natural spaces in their backyards and in time, Colorado’s backcountry.
“The staggering opportunities we have to experience nature at such a close range should be open to everyone, and this is what the Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement inspires me to work towards. Whether it be lack of money, time, resources, or knowledge – these barriers shouldn’t prevent anyone from experiencing such wonders of the world, as Edward Abbey once said, wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit,”
Yesenia Briones, Junior.
“I see the Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement more than just a program; it’s a new hope for people who haven’t experienced the outdoors in their entirety. It is more than just outdoor programming – it’s is educating people on the environment and allowing children to fall in love with it, so we will all fight for its preservation,” Daneet Montes, Junior.
In July 2017 the Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement will apply for GOCO program implementation funding. As a final project, the local Youth Advisors will present their documentary to the GOCO Board of Directors in order to not only showcase their hard work of researching, compiling, and representing the needs of the Edwards community, but also present their own hopes and aspirations for the project.
With the help of GOCO funding, the Edwards community could see improved access to the Eagle River Preserve from communities like Eagle River Village Mobile Home Park and Lake Creek Village and increased outdoor internship opportunities for high school students. Along with a full continuum of outdoor programming in local schools for students kindergarten through eighth grade.
The ultimate goal of the project is to create an interest in, understanding of, and appreciation for our natural environment by connecting youth and their families to the lifelong benefits of experiencing the outdoors. To learn more about this project contact, Gina Van Hekken, the Grants Program Manager at Walking Mountains Science Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.walkingmountains.org./EVOM.
Emma Sloan is a AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for the Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement.