WHITEHOUSE, Texas (KETK) – Texas State Parks are celebrating 100 years, and because of this the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Community Outdoor Outreach Program (TPWD CO-OP) is giving out the largest amount of grants in the program’s history. They are also helping more organizations than they ever have, TPWD announced on Wednesday. The organization is providing $2.9 million.
The funds will be used to support 55 new partnerships to encourage recreation in the Lone Star State. Those who were selected for the grants are conservation groups, nature centers, churches, summer camps, school districts and municipalities.
“Each project removes barriers for Texans to connect with nature,” TPWD said.
With this funding, deaf children will be able to learn about nature and receive assistance from American Sign Language interpreters, and communities of color will have the opportunity to hike at Fort Davis State Park and look into the history of the Buffalo Soldiers.
Students will also be able to look at the water quality at Big Bend Ranch State Park and breast cancer survivors will have the chance to experience fly-fishing.
The CO-OP was created by TPWD in 1996 to encourage under-represented groups to participate in environmental education, conservation and explore state parks. The program receives funding through some of the sporting goods sales tax of Texas.
A special committee also selects what projects receive the grants, which may be used for food, supplies, travel and other costs.
TPWD has awarded $27 million to groups in the state for 27 years to support outdoor recreation.
The groups listed below were selected to receive the grants:
Camp Tyler Foundation: $58,798
The Adventure Recreational Challenge offers three weeks of adaptive day camps that combine outdoor adventure, self-confidence and teambuilding. Collaborating with local counselors, two of the three weeks will engage mentally and emotionally challenged youth entering middle school grades. The third week will engage hearing-impaired students and deaf interpreters to create an accessible outdoor camp experience. Camp staff will attend both TPWD Angler and Archery Instructor training to learn the skills and adaptations needed to provide all campers with positive outdoor adventures.
Big Bend Conservation Alliance: $19,675
Presidio River Rangers brings together 25 rural middle school students for intensive Texas Stream Team training to collect monthly water quality data at remote locations on the Rio Grande River and within Big Bend Ranch State Park. Guided river trips connect student data to aquatic health issues; TPWD staff from Fort Davis, Balmorhea and Big Bend Ranch, along with Master Naturalist volunteers, share additional conservation expertise.
The Centered in Nature Series is a year-round, free program that introduces outdoor skills to economically disadvantaged families through neighborhood classes such as bush crafting, outdoor cooking, orienteering and guided overnight campouts. In partnership with Texas Game Wardens and Angler Education volunteers, six half-day “Hooked on Fishing Camps” will engage families in basic principles of fishing at nearby neighborhood fishing sites.
City of Arlington — Parks and Recreation: $13,659
Growing Leaders in Outdoor Wilderness Girls (GLOW Girls) offers positive outdoor experiences for minority and low-income girls, building confidence and skills through workshops teaching outdoor cooking, nature photography, fishing and orienteering. A week-long summer camp includes extended hikes, kayaking and day trips to Cedar Hill and Mineral Wells state parks. The program culminates with a weekend camping trip at Caddo Lake State Park.
Casting for Recovery, Inc. : $25,392
The Fly-Fishing Retreat Program for Breast Cancer Survivors enhances the lives of women with breast cancer, building connections to each other and with nature. The program hosts more than 50 Texas women during four weekend retreats, providing fly-fishing instruction and practice to promote the healing benefits of outdoor activity. Staff attends TPWD Aquatic Education training to integrate conservation education and stewardship of Texas fisheries.
City of Brownsville, Parks and Recreation: $69,952
The Borrow My Gear Community Camping Program (CCP) partners with local community organizations, including Resaca de la Palma State Park, to promote outdoor education and campcraft skills to families, special needs teens and young adults through workshops and overnight campouts. Staff complete TPWD Project WILD curriculum trainings and Archery Instructor certification, and lead fishing, kayaking and bird-watching programs.
To see a full list of the organizations that are receiving funds, click here.