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The Envision Chaffee County Recreation in Balance Program, which commences this week with a 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 6 meeting in Poncha Springs Town Hall, has the potential to be a game-changer for Chaffee County and Colorado as a whole. At least that is the word from Chaffee County Commissioners, who see the effort as leveraging the state’s investment in the county’s vision to protect the precious natural resources that make this place so special.

“Chaffee County truly is not like everywhere else,” said Board of County Commissioners Chair Greg Felt. “Our landscape, economic health and remarkable human capital all set us apart from many less fortunate communities. By taking an intentional, clear-eyed approach to our challenges, we acknowledge from the outset that we may be breaking trail for others.”

Recreation use in Chaffee County is growing at an estimated 17 percent per year. County residents have expressed concerns about the impact of this continued recreational growth on the county including denuded nature and forest areas, human waste, trash, increasing erosion and sediment flowing into local waterways.

The Recreation in Balance program has four goals which will be discussed to be discussed in more detail during the Wednesday evening meeting. They include the creation of a recreation and natural resource atlas, and a recreational impact monitoring system for Chaffee County. The presentation will also outline the need for a balanced community recreation framework to be put into place by 2020, and discuss some rapid response projects that could offer Chaffee County some more immediate results.

Envision-Recreation in Balance has been funded with a $99,000 grant from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Great Outdoors Colorado’s ‘Colorado the Beautiful’ program, plus $10,000 in a combined cash match from County of Chaffee, the Bureau of Land Management and the United States Forest Service. In addition, the community has provided $150,000 of in-kind support; a total program fund of a quarter million dollars.

“This program will be jointly managed by Envision/Central Colorado Conservancy, USFS and GARNA, and we are very excited to begin the work and community engagement,” said Central Colorado Conservancy Board President Cindy Williams.

Building on this base program, Central Colorado Conservancy recently partnered with the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) and the Upper Arkansas Water Conservation Board (UAWCD) to submit another grant to the Colorado Water Conservation Board in January. This grant is supported by local matching funds/services from AHRA and UAWCD, and also supported with letters of support from County of Chaffee and the Ark Basin Round Table, which represent partnerships that can build on the base program, but focused on erosion and sediment control related to recreation sites. The announcement regarding that potential grant should come in May.