Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement introducing more people to the great outdoors | VailDaily.com

Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement introducing more people to the great outdoors

Now in its fifth year, the program is looking for a stable source of funding

Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement introduces residents to the great outdoors with programs ranging from gardening to snowshoeing to mountain biking.
Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement/courtesy photo

Eagle County is an outdoor destination. But getting all who want into the great outdoors can be a challenge. It’s Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement’s job to open doors to the outdoors.

Program managers recently provided the Eagle County Board of Commissioners with a program update.

By the numbers
  • 2,971: Youth served by Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement
  • 9: Environmental leadership interns
  • 6: New outdoor spaces created
  • 245: Outdoor programs created

Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement started as a planning initiative through Great Outdoors Colorado. That agency is funded through Colorado Lottery proceeds and provides money to projects including open space purchases to park and program creation. The idea for Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement is to open the outdoors to under-represented communities.

In Eagle County, that community is largely our Spanish-speaking population.

Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement in its first three years improved playgrounds at the Lake Creek Village apartments and the Eagle River Village mobile home park. The program’s first years also created a ropes course at Maloit Park at Minturn and funded high school internships.

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Eagle County is the program’s fiscal agent, but the work is coordinated through Walking Mountains Science Center.

Looking for stability

Gina Van Hekken of Walking Mountains said Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement, now in its fifth year, is now looking for financial stability. Helping that effort is the fact the program has more than 25 sponsors and partners, including the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Eagle County Open Space, Eagle County Schools, and the U.S. Forest Service.

Van Hekken said other organizations have shown interest in getting involved in the program.

Renata Araujo is one of the program coordinators. She told the commissioners that programs focus on both individuals and families, with activities including hiking, cycling, rafting and gardening — “whatever families want to do,” she said.

Araujo said the programs have been growing quickly, from 806 participants in the first year to more than 1,400 in year four. This year, the fifth, could see more than 2,000 participants.

While more than 90% of participants are Latino, programs are open to anyone, Araujo said.

Kids make up half of all participants, Araujo said, and 40% are women.

Program coordinator Estafania Godoy said marketing programs rely primarily on word-of-mouth referrals, from sources including Our Community Market and the MIRA bus. Godoy noted that responses to news in the Spanish-language pages of the Vail Daily have also had a good response.

A welcoming environment

Programs always have a bilingual host, Godoy said, the better to create a welcoming environment for participants.

“We’ve learned how essential it is to have that personal connection,” Van Hekken said. “It’s very impactful to say ‘Renata will be there.’”

Araujo said her goal was to create a Spanish-language outdoor guide.

“A lot of families don’t know where to go,” she said.

In addition to just introducing people to outdoor activities, Van Hekken said there are plans to launch a gear library, where people can borrow items including baby carriers. Safety instructions will be tied to that library, she added.

All this work and more is being done on a slim budget. Van Hekken said the initial grant of $1.4 million from Great Outdoors Colorado was spread over three years. But more state funding is uncertain, Van Hekken said, which is why other funding partners are being sought.

“(Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement) is becoming a trusted resource,” Van Hekken said. “We may be filling a greater need than we realized.”

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