Grants establishes Youth Outdoors program

Ken Sherbenou, left, Mayor Judy Ann Files and Tom Thomas show off the grant they recieved from Colorado Parks and Wildlife that will help to start an outdoor program through the Montrose Recreation District.

As many as 130 area youths will have the opportunity to learn hunting and fishing skills beginning this spring as part of a new Montrose Recreation District program — Youth Outdoors. 

The district has offered outdoor recreation programs in the past, but a new grant from Colorado Parks and Wildlife has opened new doors for expanded opportunities. Montrose Recreation District received a grant for $18,895 on Feb. 13 and hopes to begin programs for roughly 130 young people in the area this spring. 

The programs will focus on providing education and recreation outings for teens and “tweens” from underprivileged backgrounds. Not only will participants receive instruction from expert guides and local clubs in Youth Outdoors, they will have the chance to keep equipment and turn activities into life-long hobbies. 

“The grant supports instruction, as well as equipment,” said Ken Sherbenou, recreation district executive director. “When the grant opportunity came around it kind of opened up the window for us to be able to offer the program.”

Tom Thomas, district recreation coordinator, explained the program will have elements of education and recreational outings combined. Participants will earn points for session they attend. 

“The more sessions the kids attend, the more points they are awarded, and if they get enough points they can get their own equipment free of charge,” Thomas said. 

The district has several partners in place that will provide volunteer hours and outdoor education. Archery Express and Gunnison Gorge Anglers will both pitch in with range sessions and fly tying classes, respectively. 

Other district partners will help direct interested young people to the program. The Black Canyon Boys and Girls Club and Court Appointed Special Advocates are both seeking participants for the program. 

“We talked with different organizations that provide hunting and fishing education already, and basically partnered with them in our proposal, and now since we received the grant, we’ll be working with them in offering those programs to youth starting this spring,” Sherbenou said. 

Youth Outdoors promotes an already popular lifestyle on the Western Slope, but for some of the participants, opportunities are limited to take part in outdoor recreation. 

“I think it will be a great opportunity for them to get out there, and that takes one hurdle away from their participation,” Thomas said. 

The grant application process was a stroke of luck for the district — Montrose Mayor Judy Ann Files heard of it through work with another nonprofit group and turned Sherbenou on to the possibility. 

“When I looked at the grant information, I knew that that would fit in to what I know the recreation district does with children,” Files said. 

For Files, Youth Outdoors will continue Montrose’s goal of improving the quality of life for all residents, and help usher young people into lifetime activities. 

“Anything we can teach them with hunting and fishing, those become life skills,” Files said. 

Sherbenou, who was formerly a camp director for a Denver area program serving underprivileged youth, is happy to see Montrose continuing similar work. 

“It’s exciting that the rec district will be able to continue in that pursuit,” he said.

Youth Outdoors will be advertised in the district’s March 3 spring activity guide. More information is available by contacting Thomas at the recreation district at (970) 249-7705. The district is also looking for youth organizations, particularly those who work with low-income families, to participate in the program.

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