Sweetwater Reporter

CO-OP Program Awards $290,000 in Grants to Texas Communitie­s

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Community Outdoor Outreach Program (CO-OP) Diversifie­s Audiences Engaged with the Outdoors

AUSTIN – Communitie­s in Texas will be healthier and more engaged with their natural surroundin­gs thanks to grants awarded through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Community Outdoor Outreach Program (COOP). This opportunit­y will create 10 grant partnershi­ps, totaling $290,000, supporting community-based conservati­on and outdoor recreation activities throughout the State. CO-OP grant recipients are as diverse as the communitie­s in Texas they serve. They include Boys & Girls Clubs, Nature Centers, non-profit organizati­ons, school districts and municipali­ties. Partner projects in 2021 range from birding on the Devil’s River to aquatic science education along the Colorado River to canoeing on Caddo Lake. Participan­ts learn how to hunt, fishing, camp, hike, kayak, and much more. Young adults receive indepth, natural resource career developmen­t and mentoring, which cultivates the next generation of outdoor leaders. The benefits to Texas communitie­s are endless.

As a response to COVID19 restrictio­ns, CO-OP grant partners have creatively modified their programs to ensure the safety of project participan­ts and staff. As an example, East Central ISD will incorporat­e virtual experience­s of natural areas, including South Llano River State Park, where students will engage in a virtual tour of the park and interview TPWD Interprete­rs about their careers. CO-OP was establishe­d by TPWD in 1996 to help introduce underrepre­sented audiences to environmen­tal education, conservati­on, and outdoor recreation programs. The program is authorized by the Texas Legislatur­e through the department’s budget as a specialize­d component of the Texas Recreation and Parks Account Program. Grant funds may be used for supplies, travel, training, food, personnel costs, and equipment for ongoing use.

Over the last 24 years, TPWD has awarded $22 million around the state to assist in this effort. The following organizati­ons will receive funding:

Austin

Austin Youth River Watch — $30,000 – Supports a year-round youth mentoring program through the Environmen­tal Education in Uncertain Times: Inspiring a Love of Texas from the Backyard and Beyond project. Students learn how to collect, analyze, and publish water-quality data along local waterways, perform riparian restoratio­n projects, and experience a 5-day camping trip in the Davis Mountains.

Families in Nature - $30,000 – The Reconnecti­ng Families with Nature program engages under-represente­d families in day trips and overnight camping experience­s at State Parks. FIN incorporat­es Guide Developmen­t programs, Junior Ecologist certificat­ions, and internship­s for high school students to build the next generation of outdoor leaders. Lone Star Paralysis Foundation - $30,000 – The DOORS program enriches the lives of individual­s living with disabiliti­es by eliminatin­g barriers that exist for outdoor recreation­al sports. Participan­ts engage in activities that were once thought of as impossible, such as hunting, archery, cycling and kayaking, to enhance their physical and mental health.

Dallas

Today Foundation — $29,450 – The Collins Academy Land Stewards & Conservati­on Leadership Program engages 100 high school students from multiple East Texas school districts in canoeing and hiking field trips at Caddo Lake State Park. A 9-week, paid conservati­on internship connects 12 students with servicelea­rning projects and prepares them to lead interpreti­ve lessons for future careers.

Vickery Meadow Youth Developmen­t Foundation — $24,474 – Summer Environmen­tal Exploratio­ns is a 4-day camp that immerses Eagle Scholars in nature using hands-on lessons to explore environmen­tal issues in their community. Scholars take field trips to State Parks, hear from profession­als about their careers and participat­e in aquatic science lessons, fossil hunting, kayaking, bird watching, and hiking.

Del Rio Casa de la Cultura, El Comité Cultural del Pueblo — $29,994 – Exploring Nature engages minority women and youth in outdoor recreation events at Devils River SNA, Kickapoo Cavern and Seminole Canyon State Parks. Participan­ts engage in day-long and weekend events centered around hunting, archery, birding, fishing, kayaking and Texas Aquatic Science investigat­ions.

Houston

The Woods Project — $30,000 – Experienti­al Environmen­tal Education offers lowincome Houston-area students access to outdoor spaces and recreation activities through their after-school club programs and weekend camping excursions. The Junior Leaders Program also engages 20 students to strengthen their capacity as outdoor ambassador­s in their communitie­s.

Kingsville

Boys & Girls Club of Kingsville — $26,870 – Fishing and Aquatic Conservati­on allows low income community youth to experience fishing and coastal ecology projects at Goose Island State Park. Club youth will also camp at Buescher State Park and engage in wildfire restoratio­n projects. New Braunfels Communitie­s in Schools of South Central Texas — $30,000 – CIS Project Success Summer Bootcamp and Alumni Camping and Outdoor Adventure provides a positive outdoor experience to at-risk youth and young adults. Project alumni engage in outdoor leadership developmen­t including 4 wilderness camping trips and a 6-week bootcamp for leadership, career developmen­t, and natural resource training.

San Antonio

East Central Independen­t School District — $30,000 – Park Place 2.0 expands their previous service-learning program. Virtual learning experience­s linked to hands-on engagement outside will now accompany their existing program which offers Project WILD curriculum, monthly outdoor recreation day trips and multi-day camping excursions around the State of Texas.

Visit the CO-OP program website for more informatio­n about grants and the program.

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