Colorado’s Outdoor Equity Grant Program Is a Big Step to Help Expand Outdoor Access

Over the last year, more families have been venturing outside to explore what nature has to offer through hiking, biking and other recreational activities. While these entertaining and educational opportunities seem limitless, there are still significant disparities when it comes to who can easily access these resources. 

The Creation of Colorado’s Outdoor Equity Grant Program

In June, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed HB21-1318 into law, a historic piece of legislation that will establish an Outdoor Equity Grant Program for the state. Following the lead of states like California and New Mexico, this initiative will provide necessary funding to organizations who help foster environmental inclusivity. 

The purpose of the program is to aid local groups that help children from underserved communities participate in outdoor activities, in a larger effort to create more equitable outdoor spaces. Money will be distributed from Great Outdoors Colorado, and the Outdoor Equity Grant Program would give up to $3 million annually to organizations chosen by an independent board. 

Despite Colorado’s abundance of state parks, public lands and outdoor areas, some children and their families struggle to access the recreational outdoor activities the state has to offer. Thus, the program will give money to applicants that can directly use the grant to break down these obstacles in order to provide nature-focused educational opportunities.

Robert F. Smith’s Dedication to Creating Equitable Outdoor Spaces

As a philanthropist, native Coloradan and champion for racial equity, Robert F. Smith supports Colorado’s Outdoor Equity Grant Program and has been a long-time advocate for expanding outdoor education access to marginalized populations and communities of color. 

Smith co-founded Lincoln Hills Cares in 2008. The Colorado non-profit works to increase equity in accessing outdoor opportunities for youth, families and communities that may experience barriers. Last year, the organization logged 83 program hours, saw 521 participants and was one of the few groups to provide programs throughout the summer from start to finish. 

Located in one of Colorado’s most cherished mountain areas in Gilpin, CO, Lincoln Hills’ accessibility is bolstered by organizations like Lincoln Hills Cares that provide year-round programs for young people. Lincoln Hills was established in 1922 as the country’s only resort open to African Americans in the west. Lincoln Hills Cares was founded by Robert F. Smith and Matthew Burkett, with the goal of improving access to outdoor education and recreation for all. The group partners with both national organizations such as the YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs of America, as well as local environmentally-focused groups such as cityWILD, Seeds of Power Unity Farm and Great Outdoors Colorado. Current programs offered include outdoor education, equestrian training, youth employment programs focused on environmental health and service learning programs focused on environmental conservation. 

Smith will continue to promote diversity in outdoor recreation through his work with Lincoln Hills Cares and his philanthropic investments in organizations that empower underserved youth. 

Learn more about Smith’s commitment to create equitable outdoor spaces.