Community Outdoor Outreach Program (CO-OP) Provides Opportunities to Get Outside
AUSTIN – Texas children and families will have enhanced opportunities to explore the state’s natural resources, thanks to more than $800,000 in 22 grants awarded this year through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Community Outdoor Outreach Program (CO-OP). The grants help fund community-based youth and family outdoors-oriented programs and activities like camping, hiking, fishing, kayaking and service projects.
The grant will fund programs such as an innovative program for young women in El Paso that combines natural resource exploration and storytelling using technology and media and a program that immerses high school students in environmental science as they travel on weeklong expeditions to state parks across the state.
These and many more CO-OP Grant sponsored programs will explore the best of outdoor Texas from the Canyons of Caprock, to the mysteries of Caddo Lake, and the Rio Grande Valley’s abundance of rare wildlife. Along the way, participants will discover why life is better outside.
CO-OP was founded by TPWD in 1996 to help introduce underserved populations to environmental education, conservation and outdoor recreation programs.
The program is authorized by the Texas State Legislature in the TPWD budget as a specialized component of the Texas Recreation and Parks Account Program. Grants range from $5,000 to $50,000 and may be used to pay for equipment, transportation, liability insurance and up to 40 percent for staffing costs.
CO-OP grant funding is available to tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations, municipalities, universities and local school districts. Over the last 22 years, more than 700 grants have been awarded around the state to assist in this effort.
The following organizations will receive funding:
Austin Youth River Watch — $45,000 – Two hundred and seventy high school youth will participate in an after-school and summer youth development program focused on water quality testing, environmental education, community engagement and outdoor recreation activities.
Nature and Eclectic Outdoors — $46,000 – The Wilderness Kids project will create innovative outdoor-oriented programming to 500 young people and their families in the Houston, Austin and San Antonio areas through field trips, camping events and other outdoor activities.
Mesquite ISD – Gray Elementary School — $22,182 – The Flashpoint Outdoor Adventures project integrates robust outdoor recreation training for 250 Gray Elementary students in their gym classes, after-school clubs and weekend family campouts to foster the next generation of outdoor recreation enthusiasts.
STEMS Alumni Association — $41,780 – College students from the STEMS Mentor Club at UT Rio Grande Valley will mentor 180 youth through a STEMS summer youth camp, hands-on science education curriculum and camping trips to state parks around Texas such as Davis Mountains, Big Bend Ranch, Resaca de la Palma and Seminole Canyon.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service — $48,357 – Four hundred youth in the College Station area and Rio Grande Valley will participate in the School for Outdoor Environmental Science Adventures project which integrates half-day field trips with conservation education and archery experiences at State Parks.
Twelve Stones – $46,700 – Twenty-five Junior Camp Leaders will undergo extensive outdoor recreation and leadership training to serve as mentors to other youth. These Junior Camp Leaders will then train 150 underrepresented youth in outdoor cooking, archery, hiking, geocaching and fishing skills during campouts.
Audubon Texas – $50,000 – The Audubon Conservation TREKS project will engage 210 youth in weeklong outdoor leadership experiences focusing on interpersonal growth, environmental science competency and outdoor skill development.
Dallas Parks Foundation – $45,509 – The Dallas Outdoor Adventures project will provide overnight camping trips and other outdoor recreation activities such as fishing, mountain biking and kayaking at state parks in the DFW area for 175 participants.
Groundwork Dallas — $20,294 – The Green Team Program will administer hands-on education about ecology, conservation and interpretation activities to 125 youth members and will coordinate nature hikes and paddling trips for 125 additional community members along the Trinity River in Dallas.
Latinitas Inc – $18,302 – The Eco Chica Program coordinates innovative workshops that connect 100 female youth in El Paso with their natural surroundings and familiarizes them with conservation issues, nature photography and orienteering techniques. These young women will utilize media and technology to tell the story of their outdoor experiences. Video pieces will be produced and broadcast on Latinas Magazine.
Fort Worth Independent School District – $25,770 – The Western Hills Primary Family Wilderness Club will engage 600 individuals near the Las Vegas Trail community of Fort Worth in outdoor conservation classrooms and lead camping trips at local state parks.
Friends of Cleburne State Park – $9,523 – Will administer the SEED Program providing daylong experiences for at-risk youth who learn outdoor recreation skills, explore natural resource career opportunities and participate in trail maintenance service projects at Cleburne State Park.
Harris County Precinct 4 – $46,256 – Four hundred Harris County residents will take part in outdoor recreation, outdoor summer camp field trips, habitat restoration and environmental education experiences.
Jefferson Independent School District – $49,752 – The Pollinator Pals project will provide hands-on approaches enhancing conservation stewardship skills through native plant seed collection that will be grown by Jefferson ISD horticulture students and later planted at Caddo Lake State Park and Wildlife Management Area as well as the school campus.
Science Mill — $48,631– The Doing Science Outside project hosts hands-on science activities, workshops and field trips to outdoor recreation areas for 230 middle school youth in Blanco, Johnson City, Marble Falls and Burnet.
Armand Bayou Nature Center — $36,503 – The EcoRangers program will provide environmental education, outdoor recreation and outdoor service learning activities for 350 underserved youth on school field trips.
North Dallas Adventist Academy — $22,685 – This project will engage 100 urban high school students on a weeklong biology field school in West Texas. Throughout the school year, students will be immersed in hands-on science curriculum as they explore the natural environment through camping and recreation field trips.
Our Lady of the Lake University – $40,000 – Integrates outdoor recreation skills such as fishing, birding, outdoor cooking and kayaking into their watershed investigation summer camp for 100 female middle school students in San Antonio.
YMCA of Greater San Antonio – $33,196 – Four hundred and eighty young people will visit Robert’s Ranch in the Texas Hill Country to engage in summer program field trips for natural resource education, junior master naturalist trainings and will pilot youth workshops for hunter safety education empowering future conservation leaders.
Santa Rosa Independent School District — $49,285 – This South Texas school district provides highly needed after-school and summer camp programs to engage 250 under-represented students in outdoor recreation activities and will host Archery Instructor Certification trainings for future leaders in the sport. Families will also have opportunities to be involved in these outdoor recreation activities.
Smithville Independent School District — $45,910 – The After-school Centers on Education project accommodates kindergarten through fifth grade students in experiential field trips to State Parks and outdoor recreation summer day camps filled with activities such as archery, camping, geo-caching and fishing.
Paraplegics On Independent Nature Trips — $46,876 – The Making Tracks to the Outdoors project organizes monthly outdoor recreation excursions incorporating activities such as fishing, kayaking, camping and hand cycling for community members with physical challenges in the DFW area.
To find out more about the CO-OP program, visit the program’s website at http://tpwd.texas.gov/business/grants/recreation-grants/community-outdoor-outreach-program-co-op-grants.