2017 was a big year for Colorado: we were the first state to celebrate our own Public Lands Day; our outdoor industry generated $28 billion in consumer spending; we ranked #1 in the Center for Western Priorities’ Conservation Scorecard; and our state became the new home of the Outdoor Retailer show, an estimated economic impact of $45 million.
These achievements, along with the challenges presented by reports of vandalism, damaged ecosystems and worn-down trails from across the state, made Colorado’s outdoor places – and how to care for them – the subject of a statewide conversation.
That discussion is sure to continue well into 2018; to prepare for it, let’s take a look at the changes and achievements we saw this year at Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC) that will guide our efforts to engage even more people in caring for Colorado next year.
In the Office
We welcomed new faces both on and off the trail this year as we hired our first full-time Finance and Administration Director, grew our full-time Project Manager ranks, and welcomed four new employees to the team as well as four new Board members! Our staff presented ways to involve youth in stewardship at the Colorado Open Space Alliance (COSA) Conference; and in her 10th year leading VOC, our Executive Director traveled to Brazil to share insights on volunteer stewardship and was recognized as a 2017 Thought Leader by the Denver Business Journal. We also had our most successful Uniquely Colorado and Colorado Gives Day to date – raising more than $27,000 and $50,000 respectively!
In the Field
This was a big year for our volunteer projects: after 33 years, we hit our 1,000-project mark and celebrated this Grand Milestone with seven signature opportunities across Colorado – from Hanging Lake to our state’s tallest 14er, Mt. Elbert – and special swag provided by Colorado Lottery.
We also hosted three Family Camping projects; donned costumes for our October project at Cascade Creek; and partnered with the National Forest Foundation, Friends of Dillon Ranger District (FDRD), Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (CFI), Colorado Mountain Club, and REI to restore the Quandary Peak Trail.
Our volunteers had a big year, too: long-time volunteer Steve West was featured on 9News for his dedication to Colorado’s trails; Jake Isaacson was the 9th volunteer in VOC history to reach 200 projects; 15 people joined our Volunteer Leader ranks; and more than 300 people were trained in stewardship skills through our Outdoor Stewardship Institute (OSI).
By the end of the season, we had engaged more than 5,000 volunteers in building and restoring nearly 19 miles of trail, removing 19 acres of invasive weeds, planting nearly 3,000 plants, and more! Check out our 2017 Year-end Report for more season accomplishments >>
In the Community
Each year, we involve everyday people in stewardship beyond our public volunteer projects: this year, we worked with 30 companies and youth organizations on custom SWAT (Stewardship with a Team) projects; graduated 30 students from our high school Cairn Youth Program and welcomed 31 new participants; and continued our three-year program with Lake International Middle School, aimed at closing the ethnic and economic “adventure gap” by providing regular stewardship projects and educational opportunities for their 2019 class. We also began planning a collaborative initiative, funded by the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Inspire grants, to help Denver’s Westwood community create outdoor education and recreation opportunities for local youth and families.
In the Industry
This year, VOC took on a variety of initiatives aimed at building capacity and collaboration within Colorado’s stewardship community: the Colorado Outdoor Stewardship Coalition (COSC), a group which VOC helped form in 2010, began developing shared metrics and a statewide database of outdoor stewardship organizations for the Statewide Stewardship Initiative (SSI), and we also partnered with the El Pomar Foundation and others to deliver discussions on the future of Colorado’s outdoors through the Naturally United Retreat for Leaders in Outdoor Stewardship and the Caring for Colorado in the Age of the Anthropocene salon.
We also teamed up with the Colorado Tourism Office to share “DIY Stewardship” tips with visitors and residents alike via our YourCO mobile app; began working on a universal campaign designed to instill a stewardship ethic across Colorado; and started developing the Stepping Up Stewardship toolkit, an online set of resources to help groups of any size start or improve their volunteer stewardship programs.
We got a lot of wheels turning this year and while we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, we’re even more excited to see what we will achieve next year with the help of our many partners, volunteers and supporters.
You, too, can be a part of the stewardship solution in 2018. Sign up for our e-newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and/or LinkedIn to stay in the know about stewardship trends and ways to get involved, including our 2018 volunteer projects and trainings! You can also make a New Year’s commitment to Colorado right now with a tax-deductible, year-end gift to VOC.
Finally, all of us at VOC would like to thank everyone who helped make 2017 a great year for outdoor stewardship! We can’t wait to see you in 2018!