Common Ground invests in 2020 projects

July 7, 2020 — Chaffee Common Ground will invest $450,753 in 10 local programs and projects this year, plus an additional $400,352 in 2021 and 2022 for multi-year projects that address the program’s community goals. Matching funds total nearly $2 million.

The funding package recommended by the Common Ground Citizens Advisory Committee was approved by the Chaffee Board of County Commissioners on July 7. This marked the second funding cycle since the ballot measure generating revenues passed in 2018. In 2019, $660,716 was awarded for six grants, and the BoCC indicated the intention to provide future support of $1,140,834 through 2024 for multi-year and future-year requests. Matching funds so far will bring nearly $9 million in value to the community.

“Investments last year had a strong agricultural focus due to timely opportunities to protect rural landscapes through conservation easements,” Committee Chair Cindy Williams said. “This time, excellent forest health and wildfire protection opportunities ranked very well, providing a balance in investments over time as promised.”

Sixteen applications were submitted during the Spring 2020 grant cycle. Due to unknown economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak, the committee decided to recommend a conservative funding package, Vice-chair Rick Hum said. “The program is sales-tax dependent so we will continue to track revenues and evaluate available funds,” he said, adding that the next grant cycle is likely to take place in early 2021. The Citizens Advisory Committee is a seven-member board appointed by County Commissioners. Spring 2020 winning programs and projects by category:

Forest Health & Wildfire Resilience

Chaffee Chips Fire-Adapted Communities Implementation — $34,000 to Chaffee County Fire Protection District to purchase trailers to haul slash, chain saws and other materials, rent a chipper and pay for labor for Chaffee Chips, a program that provides professional assistance to landowners to decrease wildfire risk while implementing the Chaffee County Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

Coyote Valley Road Community Fuel Break — $4,652 to Colorado State Forest Service to begin work on a 2-mile-long, 400-foot-wide community fuel break south of the Mesa Antero subdivision west of Hecla Junction. The fuel break designed by the Envision Forest Health Council will improve firefighting capabilities in the event of a wildfire in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, improve egress for residents and visitors and protect structures in the surrounding area. The committee recommended $163,998 to complete the project in 2022.

Methodist Front Wildland Urban Interface Forest & Watershed Health Restoration Project — $341,545 to Chaffee County for a multi-jurisdictional wildfire mitigation project within the foothills of Methodist Mountain, planned and executed by Envision Forest Health Council partners to create a 5-mile-long area of fuel breaks to protect the southern flank of the Salida and Poncha Springs communities of 7,000 people. Specifically, funds are for forest treatments on city, state and privately owned lands to create the fuel breaks. The two-year funding recommendation is $545,000.

Sustainable Agriculture

Chaffee Provides — $2,442 to Envision Chaffee County in partnership with Guidestone Colorado and the Kelly Ranch, for a marketing and educational program that connects agricultural producers and local consumers during a time of food insecurity due to COVID-19 and build community support for local agriculture. The two-year funding recommendation is $4,884.

Kelly Ranch Equip Irrigation System — $40,000 to ranch owner David Kelly to install a pipeline and irrigation system to capture and transport water to 40 acres of the 389-acre Kelly Ranch, delivering increased production of 60 to 80 tons of hay annually. The ranch west of Johnsons Village is on the National Historic Register of Places and under a conservation easement since 2011. Irrigation supports the burrowing owl, a state threatened species, as well as elk, antelope and deer, and the property contains one of the largest natural high-altitude fen wetlands in Colorado.

Land Link Lunch & Learn Online Series — $2,000 to Guidestone Colorado to support a new, year-long virtual online learning series through Colorado Land Link, a program that encourages conversation and resource development for land access and farm succession.

Sunnyside Park Ditch Feasibility Study — $8,000 to Sunnyside Park ditch company to conduct a feasibility study to explore options for long-term repairs and reinforcements of the ditch serving ranches north of Salida on both sides of Highway 291.

Recreation Impact Management

Chaffee County Recreation Plan — $10,152 to Envision Chaffee County to support the delivery of a strategic plan to manage outdoor recreation growth and support the goals developed by the Envision Recreation in Balance program, which are to enhance or maintain natural resources, exceptional user experiences, and the economic benefits of recreation. The two-year funding recommendation is $40,609.

Fourmile Midland Road Restoration — $3,812 to Wildlands Restoration Volunteers to close and revegetate a 3,200-foot road section in the Fourmile/Midland recreation area as requested by Bureau of Land Management partners, to help direct recreation to less sensitive areas and allow deteriorated natural areas to recover for a better overall user experience.

Healthy Horn Fork — $4,150 to the Greater Arkansas River Nature Association (GARNA) in partnership with Noah’s Ark Rafting & Adventure Co., U.S. Forest Service and Envision Chaffee County to plan and implement stewardship activities in Horn Fork Basin, a 6,000-acre area west of Buena Vista encompassing Bear and Kroenke lake drainages and three Fourteeners in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. The project is designed to serve as a model for long-term stewardship of Wilderness areas.