Volume 2 | Novemer 2021
Providing updates about our work in conservation, outdoor recreation, and the environment here in western Colorado
Last year our Community Foundation awarded Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) a grant of $5,000 for Leave No Trace (LNT) workshops for program providers to better educate youth and families about the principles of outdoor ethics. In partnership with the BLM, CCA hosted seven organizations at Dinosaur Hill for a two-day “train-the-trainer” course in October. Facilitated by the national Leave-No-Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, participating organizations included Eureka!, Riverside Education Center (REC), and Colorado National Monument Associations (CNMA).

The seven Leave No Trace principles are:
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
 
Another donor-advised grant to CCA allowed the local organization to partner with the National Environmental Education Foundation’s (NEEF) Greening STEM initiative and the BLM to showcase the benefits of hands-on experiential learning. In May of 2021, D51 students participated in an invasive species study to help the BLM better understand the impacts of Russian Knapweed and the effectiveness of using Gall Wasps to manage their spread. Check out the incredible videos here: https://wc-cf.org/nonprofits/grantmaking/
Innovations in Waste Diversion
Mesa County Landfill Embraces Creative Solution for Mattress Recycling
Our Community Foundation has a long history of supporting non-profit organizations committed to recycling and other forms of waste diversion, from food composting to e-waste recycling. In the last three years, we've awarded $28,000 to four different non-profits working on these issues. We are always excited to learn about and share innovative efforts that address recycling.

In the world of waste diversion, there are few items more challenging than mattresses. Mattresses are not easy to dispose of for the average person – they are difficult to donate, cumbersome to transport, and take up a lot of room. Now imagine you have to deal with 300 unwanted mattresses a week. That’s precisely the position Mesa County Director of Solid Waste and Sustainability, Jennifer Richardson, found herself in a couple years ago. Not only do mattresses not compact like normal trash, which results in more filled space in the landfill, but mattress springs wreak havoc on landfill machinery, costing upwards of $10,000 annually in repairs.
 
These challenges and the ever-increasing number of mattresses led Richardson to partner with Spring Back, Inc. a Commerce City-based non-profit that breaks down over 90% of each mattress into individual components (steel, foam, cotton, wood) for recycling or reuse. Additionally, Spring Back employs disenfranchised individuals. Its programs “give employees opportunity to re-establish themselves and strengthen their path to recovery and prosperity.”
 
WCCF staff had the opportunity to visit the landfill in late summer, a month after the newly established partnership with Spring Back. Mesa County sends three shipments of mattresses to the Front Range each week and had already sent well over 1,000 mattresses to be disassembled. Before contracting with Mesa County, Spring Back already had two existing western slope contracts and is working to cultivate more. If enough volume can be generated, Spring Back is considering a western slope facility which would not only cut back on transportation costs but bring the company’s employment philosophy to western Colorado and offer employment opportunities to those wanting to work. 
 
The Mesa County landfill charges $10 to drop a mattress at their facility. Although it costs approximately $40 to send the mattress to the Front Range, the cost savings in equipment repairs, labor, and landfill space more than compensates for the cost differential.
 
Kudos to Jennifer Richardson for finding and implementing solutions to complicated problems that not only benefit the environment but help people in need. 

To learn more about the program click here.
Grantee Updates
Outdoor Wilderness Lab (OWL)
We Give a Hoot!
School District 51’s Outdoor Wilderness Lab, fondly referred to as OWL, is entering its ninth year providing 6th grade students with meaningful learning opportunities by experiencing science and overcoming social-emotional challenges outside. 

Students spend three days and two nights on campus at the Gateway School where they learn everything from watershed health to astronomy. In addition to curriculum-based science lessons, students participate in activities like wildlife identification taught by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). Students also have time to reflect and bond with their peers around a campfire after a contemplative night hike. This learning and personal growth all takes place against the backdrop of the Dolores River and Unaweep Canyon where students gain a deeper appreciation of western Colorado’s unique landscape.

A group of CORE founders and friends had the privilege of visiting OWL earlier this fall. Seeing OWL in action was so inspiring that our Board Chair and CORE Co-Founder submitted a letter to the editor that will hopefully run later this month.

We hope this is the first of many field trips for our CORE Giving Circle. If you’re interested in more information about CORE, please contact Emily Orbanek.
Eureka!'s Gear-Up Program
Making Connections Between Biking, Science and Life
Eureka!’s Gear-Up program is designed to connect students to mountain biking and science education opportunities in after school programming and summer camps. Mastering mountain biking skills and equipment maintenance provides a powerful opportunity for students to set and achieve goals and bond with adult mentors. The program provides a special opportunity for students to enjoy a western Colorado form of outdoor recreation - something the students see but may have never been able to participate in.

Last year’s CORE Giving Circle supported the launch of Gear-Up! with $5,000, covering program fees and providing access to bikes and helmets students need in order to participate for 25 youth.

Tell Me More... What is C.O.R.E?

Conservation. Outdoor Recreation. Environment.

Our Community Foundation is making a committed effort to expand funding and better support the conservation, restoration, and enhancement of natural ecosystems important to the quality of life and economy of our communities in western Colorado.

With the enthusiasm and financial support of 32 founding donors who care about the environment, our Community Foundation is building an endowment fund to increase funding and distribute grants in support of conservation, outdoor recreation, and environment (CORE) projects.

The CORE Fund supports a wide span of projects as there are many issues to work on related to protecting and enhancing our environment and outdoor lifestyle. Like-minded donors who care about these issues and want to make grant investments are encouraged to join us! CORE Fund donors participate in the annual process to review projects and determine grants, go on project site visits, and attend special education events. For more information, contact eorbanek@wc-cf.org.

Donor Spotlight:
Gudrun Rice and Charlie Kerr

How long have you been involved with the Community Foundation?

GR: We’ve been occasional donors to the Community Foundation for specific initiatives like hunger, but CORE was our first significant donation.

CK: CORE is our first step with the Community Foundation at a more significant level. It’s also a great learning experience
for us as individuals interested in these topics – we learn more about what’s going on in our community related to the environment.

GR: We were so impressed with the CORE field trip to the Outdoor Wilderness Lab and to learn about the incredible work happening in Gateway. Impacting young people and making sure they have meaningful outdoor experiences is important to us.

What drew you to become CORE donors?

CK: In 1979, we were living in Montrose and on one of our backpack trips we saw forty-year-old, mountainside, pine forest clear-cuts that had never recovered. Then we witnessed the Forest Service revising its forest management plan to allow clear cutting 20,000 acres of Aspen forests. We joined Western Colorado Congress, a grassroots, West Slope environmental organization, to oppose unsustainable, “harvesting” practices, which led us to become environmental activists. Our federal public lands are precious, and we’re the caretakers who need to leave them as healthy as we find them.

GR: For the Community Foundation to make the environment a priority is so exciting to us.

CK: Our wilderness areas and roadless areas are biological reserves that are wild and wonderous. Expanding conservation practices and developing recreational opportunities while protecting the environment are central to CORE’s mission. 

What is your favorite place in western Colorado?

CK: Almost any place above 11,500 ft., tree line.

GR: I love the rocks. I have come to love desert and canyons in a way that I never thought I would. And it’s right here for all of us to enjoy.

What are some of your favorite books about the American West or nature?

CK & GR: The Overstory, by Richard Powers

CK: I've always been a tree lover and this book provides deep insights into the nature of trees and forests. 

GR: Beyond the 100th Meridian, by Wallace Stegner. This book was hugely important to my understanding of the Colorado River and its history.
News Briefs
Grand Valley River Corridor Initiative
The Colorado and Gunnison Rivers run through the heart of western Colorado. They are vital to every aspect of life. Over the past six months several area non-profits, the university, and land managers have organized to form the Grand Valley River Corridor Initiative to improve communication and coordination for long-term management for the rivers and adjacent lands. Ultimately, the group aims to create a unified community vision for the river corridor and identify activities to realize that vision. The group is seeking input from a variety of stakeholders including local residents. A final focus group is scheduled for November 10, from 6:30-8:30 PM at Colorado Mesa University. Visit their website to learn more about the initiative and to register for the session.
Building CORE Strength Here in Western Colorado...
Our goal is to provide more support through increased funding, technical assistance, collaboration-building, and education focused on conservation, outdoor recreation, and environment projects protecting and enhancing the place we live in and call home
Interested in supporting our work? 
Please consider a donation today.
Any size gift appreciated!