DENVER, CO — The House today passed legislation sponsored by Representative Leslie Herod that would create the Outdoor Equity Grant Program to increase access and opportunity for underserved youth and their families to experience Colorado’s outdoor spaces and parks. The vote was 43-22.
“Colorado’s great outdoors are some of the most incredible places on earth, but too many of our youth don’t get a chance to experience them or the incredible health and wellness benefits that come with exploring our parks, trails, rivers and mountain adventures,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver. “The Outdoor Equity Grant Program will connect underserved youth and their families to our great outdoors and break down the barriers that prevent so many Colorado youth from getting to play, learn from, and enjoy the spaces that make our state famous all around the world.”
“I’m always working to break down barriers that can make it harder for Coloradans to access the places and services they need,” said Rep. David Ortiz, D-Littleton. “This is a great bill that will help more Black and Brown Coloradans and people with disabilities access the incredible outdoor spaces that Colorado is known for. Every young Coloradan should have the opportunity to enjoy and explore our parks, mountains, lakes, and all that Colorado has to offer in our great outdoors.”
HB21-1318 creates a grant program to provide funding to organizations that reduce barriers to the Colorado outdoors for underserved youth and their families. Grants would be awarded to entities that create pathways for formal or informal conservation or offer environmental and Colorado outdoor-based educational opportunities. An equity board in the Division of Parks and Wildlife would oversee the grant program. The program would be funded through revenue from the Colorado lottery.
Despite the availability and ease of access to some of the most beautiful outdoor spaces on earth, certain demographics of Colorado youth and their families face significant obstacles and challenges to accessing these spaces. Research shows that more time spent in nature is essential to health and wellbeing, and it improves physical and mental health, reduces stress, and enhances social skills.