WHEN San Luis Valley Great Outdoors looks out to the next 10 years it sees a new connective tissue called “Heart of the Valley Trail” that is 154 miles long and connects the communities of the Valley together.

The concept was one of 10 projects selected to receive state funding through the Colorado State Outdoor Recreation grant, Gov. Jared Polis announced Tuesday.

SLV GO was awarded $100,000 to pay for the development of a master plan for the Heart of the Valley Trail. “The trail is a collaborative effort between San Luis Valley Great Outdoors (SLV GO), private landowners, and local governments to develop a 154-mile trail that would span the width of the San Luis Valley,” according to the grant application. The funding includes $57,500 to support personnel costs with the remaining funding going toward a preliminary environmental review, trail assessments, legal counsel, and administrative expenses. 

“The Heart of the Valley Trail is an exciting addition to the San Luis Valley’s world-class trail system,” said Gov. Polis. “This new 154-mile trail spanning the full width of the valley will allow Coloradans and visitors to explore the iconic beauty of the San Luis Valley.”

SLV GO Executive Director Mick Daniel said the state outdoor recreation grant will kickstart a planning process that will help research right-of-ways and begin a conversation with communities on how to make the Heart of the Valley Trail a reality.

“How do we begin connecting these trails?” said Daniel. “We always work best when we have community support for a project.”

Daniel sees opportunities to tap into other federal funding to bring money into the project once a master plan is developed. He said the $100,000 state grant will start a planning process that would likely span over two years.

The Colorado State Outdoor Recreation Grant is the first grant program offered by Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office (OREC) and was made possible by funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) State Tourism Grant

“Across the state, our office has heard from community leaders and outdoor recreation stakeholders about the challenges that face the industry today, not least of which are affordable housing and climate change. The massive demand for this funding is a testament to the robust industry of outdoor recreation in Colorado and the need to support its development. We are so proud to provide this funding to help build a Colorado where generations to come can work and play in the outdoors,” said OREC Program Manager Matt Nuñez.

Between June and September, the OREC team completed 13 trips to 26 counties and met or reached 400 people through 12 listening sessions as well as individual meetings and site visits. These visits offered insights into the need for funding that exists across Colorado’s outdoor recreation industry and the creative uses its partners foresee for grant opportunities. 

The grant program launched on June 1, and 25 applications were received by the first deadline of June 30, representing 15 counties throughout Colorado and requesting a total of $5,826,207. The Colorado State Outdoor Recreation Grant will distribute $3.9 million, with a quarterly review of applications. The review process is underway for the Sept. 30 deadline and the next deadline for applications is Dec. 31.

Other grantees

Adaptive Adventures, Westminster – $57,588 
Funding will support the Access Adventure program, a program designed to get Coloradans with physical disabilities into the great outdoors and specifically, state and national parks.

American Institute for Avalanche Research & Education, Telluride – $90,000
The grant will cover instructor and administrative expenses and support training for 60 avalanche educators in and near Ouray, Steamboat Springs, and Leadville during the 2022-23 winter seasons. 

Aspen International Mountain Foundation, Aspen – $25,000
These funds support marketing efforts for the 6th Global Meeting of the United Nations Mountain Partnership held in Aspen that showcases Colorado companies, NGOs, and partners supporting the outdoor recreation economy and workforce. 

Colorado Outward Bound School, Denver – $100,000
Colorado Outward Bound School (COBS) will put this grant toward workforce development and payroll expenses. 

Girl Scouts of Colorado, Denver – $100,000
The “Creating Outdoor Opportunities for Colorado Girls” program creates excitement about outdoor recreation through camps and by linking girls to education and career opportunities.

The Live by Living Foundation, Lakewood – $47,000
By funding a program/volunteer manager position, this grant will help the Live by Living Foundation develop the Cancer to 14K program, a 10-week conditioning program for cancer survivors and caregivers. 

Mesa County Public Health, Grand Junction – $74,666
Mesa County Public Health will develop a master plan for the Gunnison Bluffs and Old Spanish Trail area south of Grand Junction. The master plan will address navigation and safety concerns along with trail deterioration. 

Montezuma County – $98,759
Montezuma County is partnering with local municipalities, Dolores County, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Mesa Verde National Park, and other stakeholders to further explore the long-term economic impact of outdoor recreation in the region.

Rocky Mountain Field Institute, Colorado Springs – $75,000
An estimated 32 staff positions will benefit from this funding each year between January 2023 and December 2025.