A bill passed the Colorado General Assembly June 4 creating a grant program designed to help boost access for underserved communities to outdoor areas like state parks and public lands and give them opportunities to do activities like hiking.

The grant program will be managed by an outdoor equity board within Colorado Parks and Wildlife that will be responsible for distributing funds to local communities and environmental organizations.

“Funding around programs for people of color in the outdoors was not as linked or connected as it should be,” said state Rep. Leslie Herod (D-Denver), who was one of the sponsors of the legislation. “Working with a coalition of folks including Conservation Colorado and many others, we started to look at how to create an outdoor equity fund.”

State legislators saw an opportunity to launch the initiative in the wake of a recent increase in state lottery sales, which will be used to fund this program. It will receive $750,000 next fiscal year and is slated for $1.2 million in 2022-2023.

The bill drew support from some, but not all, Republican lawmakers.

Herod was motivated to  push for this legislation after hearing reports about Black women being harassed and targeted while hiking in outdoor areas across the state.

“Seeing the movement for reclaiming spaces for Black people has really inspired me to rethink the outdoors and even my role in it,” Herod said.

People who are part of local organizations across Colorado will be able to apply for funds from the program to help expand access for underserved communities to explore the outdoors.  

Members of the outdoor equity board, which will implement this program, will consist of a diverse group of people including LGBTQ, disabled people, and people of color.

The bill now heads to Gov. Jared Polis’ (D-CO) desk, where proponents say it will likely be signed into law.