Common Ground gives $890,005 for forest health, rural landscapes and recreation management

The Board of County Commissioners approved $890,005 in grant awards to 14 recipients during the Spring 2022 Chaffee Common Ground funding cycle.

Recommendations by the Citizens Advisory Committee were approved today.

Nineteen applications requesting $1,167,837 were received.

The grant funding package includes $519,205 for forest health and wildfire resilience, $208,100 to sustain rural landscapes, and $162,700 for recreation management that protects watersheds and landscapes in Chaffee County. Matching cash and in-kind funds total $1,787,370.

This marked the fourth funding cycle since the ballot measure generating Common Ground revenues passed in 2018. To date, $5.9 million has been awarded to 28 local groups and partnerships for 50 programs and projects. Matching investments for these grants will bring $24.7 million in value to the community by 2026. Programs and projects by category:

Forest Health & Wildfire Resilience

Mesa Antero Fuels Reduction

$202,205 over two years to the Colorado State Forest Service to create a 5-mile-long fuel break along roads in the Mesa Antero subdivision, to improve firefighter access and resident evacuation in the event of a wildfire and help protect 210 homes. The project connects to two existing fuel breaks to the south. The landscape is identified as a Treatment Priority Area in the Chaffee County Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

Wildland/Mitigation Coordinator

$180,000 to Chaffee County Fire Protection District to create a full-time staff position for three years to manage wildfire mitigation programs. The fire department is required to provide proof of a sustainable funding source to receive recommended funds in the third year (2024).

Forestry & Prescribed Fire Module

$95,000 to Colorado Firecamp for personal protective equipment and a utility terrain vehicle (UTV) outfitted with a water tank and pump. The equipment will be used for Firecamp’s field exercises that include slash pile and agricultural ditch burning, forest thinning and additional forest mitigation work.

Low-Tech Process-Based Restoration Assessment for Forest & Watershed Health

$42,000 to the National Forest Foundation for a pilot project to create manmade beaver dams that commonly result in beaver recolonization, which can help restore wetlands and reduce post-wildfire sediment transport resulting from flooding.

Sustainable Agriculture

Upper Arkansas Virtual Fencing

$123,750 to Central Colorado Conservancy to partner with the U.S. Forest Service to analyze the use of virtual fencing for livestock operations. Funding pays for radio towers, tower trailers and radio collars that could eliminate the need for traditional fencing and help agricultural operators more efficiently manage livestock on private and public lands.

M&S Quarry Water Point

$57,350 to TN Bar Cattle Company to move water away from the quarry site, a popular recreation destination, to ensure that grazing livestock and wildlife can continue to drink from the only source in the area. Funds pay for a well, pump and associated infrastructure. Water will remain in the quarry for visitor use.

Missouri Park Ditch Bank Vegetation Management

$20,000 to Missouri Park Ditch Company to pay for a Southwest Conservation Corps crew to cut and pile willows along a portion of the ditch to increase water delivery. The slash will be burned in a separate project. Ditch water from the South Arkansas River irrigates about 2,000 acres of agricultural lands north and northwest of Poncha Springs.

Soil Health and Grazing Speaker Series

$5,000 mini-grant to Upper Arkansas Conservation District to support education about grazing management techniques, drought resilience and profit management for local agricultural producers.

Berry Patch

$2,000 mini-grant for Colorado Farm to Table to purchase a cooler to store fresh berries for The Berry Patch Project, an educational farming experience on The Shine Farm. The organization is required to raise equal matching funds to receive the grant.

Recreation Management

Monarch Park Improvements

$60,000 to the National Forest Foundation to assist in renovation of the U.S. Forest Service Monarch Park Campground, a project that was selected for Great American Outdoors Act funding. Local funding mitigates the impact of recreation on nearby streams and riparian areas, by reducing user-created social trails, grading eroded areas and revegetating old campsites. Campground renovation is prioritized in the Chaffee County Outdoor Recreation Management Plan.

Porta-Potties on Public Lands

$48,000 to Greater Arkansas River Nature Association (GARNA) over three years to place 22 portable toilets at 11 popular areas on public lands, to support recreation management as outdoor use grows.

Whipple Trail Restoration

$44,700 to the Town of Buena Vista Recreation Department to address the impacts of overuse on the Whipple Trail. The project, a top priority in the Chaffee County Outdoor Recreation Management Plan, restores the trail to industry standards, improves three access points to the river, naturalizes numerous social trails and enhances two existing overlook areas.

Chubb Park Dispersed Camping Cleanup

$5,000 mini-grant to the Colorado State Land Board for materials such as wooden posts, metal campfire rings and an informational kiosk to transition to camping in sites that are designated on the Chubb Park State Land Trust parcel.

Portable Toilets at Salida Trailheads

$5,000 mini-grant to Salida Mountain Trails for portable toilets at three popular trailheads on CR 108, CR 110 and Spiral Drive.

A conservation funding program addressing landscape challenges for the community, Chaffee Common Ground invests a 0.25% sales tax to strengthen forest health and reduce wildfire danger; conserve and support working agriculture and rural landscapes; and manage the impacts of growth in outdoor recreation. Visit chaffeecommonground.org for more information.

Dan R