(EL PASO COUNTY, Colo.) — On Friday, Dec. 9, the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) board awarded two grants totaling $153,025 for projects in El Paso County, with the City of Colorado Springs and Green Mountain Falls both receiving funds for mitigation and trail improvements.

According to a press release from GOCO, Green Mountain Falls was awarded $82,200 to hire Mile High Youth Corps-Southern Front Range (MHYC-SFR) crews for fire mitigation and forest health work. In addition, the City of Colorado Springs was awarded $70,825 for trail improvements in Austin Bluffs Open Space and habitat improvement and restoration in Smith Creek Open Space.

The grants are part of GOCO’s Conservation Service Corps program, in which GOCO partners with Colorado Youth Corps Association (CYCA) to employ conservation service corps crews across the state on outdoor recreation and stewardship projects. CYCA represents a statewide coalition of eight accredited corps that train youth, young adults, and veterans to complete land and water conservation work and gain professional skills.

“The partnership between GOCO and CYCA is more important than ever,” said Scott Segerstrom, executive director of CYCA. “Colorado’s iconic public and protected lands are being enjoyed by millions of people each year making the stewardship of these resources critical. These investments by GOCO ensure that conservation service corps can rise to this challenge and keep these lands healthy and accessible for everyone.” Equally important, GOCO’s investments create hundreds of jobs that will be filled by youth and young adults from across the state. Together, CYCA and GOCO are not only securing the future of these lands, we are changing the trajectory of lives.”

GOCO said Green Mountain Falls is one of the highest fire risk zones in Colorado. Working with the local fire protection district and private landowners, the town will partner with MHYC-SFR crews for eight weeks to advance efforts to build a continuous, two-mile-long fuel break around the community.

With its $70,825 grant, the City of Colorado Springs will partner with MHYC-SFR crews for eight weeks of work at Austin Bluffs Open Space and Smith Creek Open Space. Crews will construct 6,650 feet of trail to provide neighborhood access to Austin Bluffs. At Smith Creek, they will apply herbicide on 33.25 acres to combat noxious weeds. They will also work to restore native vegetation, helping protect the habitat of the endangered Preble’s meadow jumping mouse.

GOCO said to date, they have invested more than $57 million in projects in El Paso County and partnered to conserve 8,169 acres of land there. GOCO funding has supported Cheyenne Mountain State Park, Ute Valley Park, Red Rock Canyon Open Space, and the local Generation Wild coalition, Generation Wild of the Pikes Peak Region, and other projects.