On December 8, the Board of County Commissioners approved disbursement of $414,975 to two applicants who had applied for funding through Grand County’s Open Lands, Rivers and Trails (OLRT) fall grant cycle.
Open Lands and Rivers
The Town of Hot Sulphur Springs initially requested $220,000, 44% of their total project cost of $499,920, for the Himebaugh Creek property acquisition.
The funds had been requested for the purchase of 270 acres of open ranchland that lies between the town of Hot Sulphur Springs and the Arapaho National Forest.
The land consists of sagebrush hillsides and willows that grow along the wetlands of Himebaugh Creek. It has valuable wildlife habitat and serves as a movement corridor for elk and deer between their winter and summer ranges.
The current landowners are developing a conservation easement with the Colorado Headwaters Land Trust to protect the property’s natural and scenic values and prevent significant development.
The town is interested in purchasing the property in order to allow its residents and visitors to physically enjoy the natural setting, develop trails and to provide public access to the adjacent national forest, BLM, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife land.
Any trail development and public use of the land as managed by the town will be consistent with the terms of the conservation easement.
On November 17, 2020, the Town of Hot Sulphur Springs requested an additional $25,000 in funding, because they had only received $25,000 of the requested $50,000 from Gates Family Foundation. The Open Lands, Rivers and Trails Advisory Committee (OLRTAC) met on December 1, 2020 to consider the additional request.
With an average score of 91.2/100, the OLRTAC recommended fully funding the grant request of $245,000.
Headwaters Trails Alliance (HTA) applied for five separate grants in the fall cycle. Both COVID-19 and Wildfire have wreaked havoc on the local trail system, and HTA has worked rapidly and tirelessly to respond and ensure safe trails are available for use by the public.
- Grand County Hazard Tree & Forest Fuels Mitigation. HTA requested $49,500, which is 21% of the total project budget (not including in-kind) of $239,610, for the Hazard Tree & Forest Fuels mitigation project. This funding request is for continued assistance with hazard tree mitigation with the inclusion of fire restoration measures due to numerous wildfires in Grand County in 2020. Our forests are primarily standing dead lodgepole pine due to the mountain pine beetle epidemic from the late 1990s–2010. HTA has taken an active role assisting federal land management agencies with hazard tree removal and forest fuels reduction over the last several years. This request to help fund hazard tree removal will improve public safety and reduce fire hazards in and around recreational areas. Specific areas identified for this work this year due to the wildfires include: trail areas in both the Troublesome Valley (Elk Mountain, Paradise, Buffalo Creek, and Bill Miller), and Williams Fork (Kinney Creek, Keyser Ridge, Horseshoe Lake, Lake Evelyn, Darling Creek, Southfork, Ritchey Creek, and Elk Wallow trails). With an average score of 86.8/100, OLRTAC recommended fully funding the grant request for $49,500.
- Phases Trail System Redevelopment Project. HTA requested $55,700, which is 10% of the total project budget (not including in-kind) of $529,000, for the Phases Trail System redevelopment project. HTA requests funds to assist the BLM with the continuation of a trail redevelopment project in the popular Strawberry Recreation Management Area (aka “The Phases”) aimed at protecting the natural environment from erosion and providing safer recreational experiences for hiking, biking, and fishing access. The Phases area has very steep terrain with trails that are fall line and prone to erosion due to the crushed granite soil type. Trail improvements (reroutes, rock armoring, improved drainages, deadfall and hazard tree removal, and vegetation management) have been occurring over the last three years through OLRT funding, volunteer projects, and National Public Lands Day projects. An Environmental Assessment was required to approve more significant trail changes and reroutes and was completed in May 2020. The final project plan includes a trail system overhaul of over seven miles of trails with reroutes, closures and decommissions, armoring, and alternate lines to enhance the safety, sustainability, and recreational experience on these trails. The funds requested for this project are leveraged with grant applications from GOCO and CPW State Trails. With an average score of 86.0/100, OLRTAC recommended fully funding the grant request of $55,700.
- Rendezvous Trail Improvements. HTA requested $35,075, which is 25% of the total project budget (not including in-kind) of $139,925, for the Rendezvous Trail Improvements project. This funding request is for trail maintenance (brushing, tread work, drainage, and hazard trees) and bridge replacements on three miles of original trails (built over 20 years ago) in the Rendezvous Trail System. The trails involved in this request will be deeded to the Town of Fraser by the end of October. This non-motorized trail system is open to the public for year-round use. With an average score of 81.6/100, OLRTAC recommended fully funding the grant request of $33,075.
- Countywide Adopt-A-Trail Program (AAT). HTA requested $16,350,which is 41% of the total project budget (not including in-kind) of $39,890, for the AAT program. The AAT program is an extension of HTA’s trail maintenance program in which land managers allow HTA to leverage resources to assist with the several million dollars of deferred maintenance on Grand County’s trail systems. By utilizing volunteers to help “oversee” the trails and perform labor during scheduled project days on specific trails throughout the field season, HTA can accomplish more trail maintenance work and promote stewardship of our public lands. In 2020, despite COVID restrictions and the inability of the USFS to allow volunteers on their land, HTA still accomplished 540 hours of AAT work. With an average score of 80.6/100, OLRTAC recommended fully funding the grant request for $16,350.
- Winter Trail Grooming 2020-2021. HTA requested $13,350, which is 23% of the total project budget (not including in-kind) of $56,825, for Winter Trail Grooming. HTA and its partners maintain over 35 miles of existing winter, non-motorized, multi-use trails. HTA expanded its grooming program in 2019-2020 by almost 5 miles, due to interest and later in response to COVID-19 and the need to social distance during recreation activities. Due to both an increase in volume of winter trail users and late season snow, HTA prolonged its grooming season well into April. This year, HTA will start its grooming operations earlier (November instead of December) and seeks to provide expanded grooming for users to spread out on trails for COVID compliance. In 2020-2021, HTA seeks to add an additional 6.5 miles of trails to its grooming program (increase of 18.6%). HTA requests funding from OLRT to help provide these opportunities. Note: Since this grant application was submitted, the $15,000 in committed funds from Grand Park are not available and HTA is working to find an alternate funding source to groom the Grand Park Meadow. Since this application was submitted after the grant cycle closed, the OLRTAC did not score this grant application. After discussing the grant application, the OLRTAC recommended fully funding the grant request for $13,350.
Drawing on funds available at the end of August 2020, the Open Lands and Rivers fund was left with a balance of $1,076,704.03. The Trails Fund, set at a maximum of 15% of total funds available, was left with $2,276.62.
The OLRT is funded by a .3% county sales tax approved by voters in 2016. This was the sixth grant cycle conducted since implementation in January 2017. Prior to the Fall 2020 grant cycle, a total of $3,259,850 has been awarded for Open Lands and Rivers, and $635,311 for Trails. The fund will sunset in 2027, unless approved again by voters.
The Spring 2021 grant cycle opens February 1 and will close on March 5. The OLRTAC will make their recommendations to the BOCC in April 2021. To learn more about Grand County’s Open Lands, Rivers and Trails fund, visit co.grand.co.us.