Common Ground opens Winter/Spring grant cycle

County program to allocate approximately $900,000 for conservation work

The Chaffee Common Ground Citizens Advisory Committee will open a grant cycle on Jan. 12. Community organizations and others interested in applying for funds are encouraged to attend an Information Session from 9-11 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 23 to learn about eligibility requirements and grant criteria. Contact Common Ground Administrator Ben Doon at ccg.cac@gmail.com to obtain virtual access and materials for the Zoom session.

Approximately $900,000 will be available during this grant cycle for programs and projects that strengthen forest health and reduce wildfire danger; conserve and support agricultural lands and rural landscapes; and manage the impacts of growth in outdoor recreation. 

The pre-application deadline is Feb. 10 and the deadline for full applications is March 17. Funding recommendations by the Citizens Advisory Committee are subject to approval by the Board of County Commissioners. Awards will be announced in May for funding in early June.

Visit the Grantee Info tab for guidelines and application links.

Common Ground 2022 Annual Report released

The Citizens Advisory Committee provides the Chaffee Common Ground 2022 Annual Report to the community to summarize program investments.

During the fourth funding cycle in 2022, $890,005 in grants were awarded, including $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 totaled $1,753,371.

To date, more than $6.1 million has been awarded by Common Ground to about 50 local groups and partnerships. Matching investments for these grants will bring $26.6 million in value to the community, meaning that the dedicated sales tax has been leveraged by four times to benefit the citizens of Chaffee County.

“In just four years, we’ve made dramatic progress in all three priority areas of Common Ground,” said Michael Hannigan, Vice-chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee. “Thank you all for your vision and actions to make our slice of Colorado a superb place to live, work and play.”

Major investments in 2022 include support for ongoing forest treatments as planned and executed by the Envision Forest Health Council, which is now comprised of 44 leaders who work together to implement the Chaffee County Community Wildfire Protection Plan, and its top goal to treat 30,000 priority acres by 2030. Grants also support staff and equipment for firefighters and foresters to complete the treatments.

Common Ground continues to directly support agricultural sustainability by funding conservation easement opportunities, irrigation ditch maintenance projects and additional programs that help keep ranches in operation as the county experiences a period of fast-paced growth and development. An innovative 2022 project tests the efficacy of virtual fencing to more efficiently manage livestock with radio towers and collars.

Investments in recreation management focused in 2022 on projects that protect watersheds and landscapes from the impacts of growth in outdoor visitation. Grant awards improve Buena Vista’s Whipple Trail and the Monarch Park Campground. A set of awards paid for portable toilets at a dozen popular recreation areas last summer, part of a Keep it Clean initiative outlined in the Chaffee County Outdoor Recreation Management Plan. 

Support for the Chaffee Rec Rangers and Chaffee Rec Adopters programs continued for a second season in the summer of 2022. The number of Rangers doubled to eight full-time seasonal staff working for the U.S.Forest Service Salida Ranger District, Bureau of Land Management and Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area. Volunteer “Adopters” removed seven tons of trash and campfire ash during six cleanup events, and several dozen volunteers signed up to monitor and steward sections of public lands on an ongoing basis.

Information about project and program activities, as well as aggregated funding information, are provided in the report.

$890K invested in forests, landscapes and recreation management

Wildfire mitigation, ‘virtual’ livestock fencing and restoration projects top awards list; portable toilets to support recreation growth

May 10, 2022 — 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 on May 10 and include:

  • $519,205 for forest health and wildfire resilience
  • $208,100 to sustain rural landscapes
  • $162,700 for recreation management that protects watersheds and landscapes

This marked the fourth funding cycle since the ballot measure generating Common Ground revenues passed in 2018. 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.