Last weekend marked the official kick off of the Colorado Outdoor Mentors Program. On Saturday September 28, several organizations came together for an outdoor skills festival at Barr Lake State Park. With the help of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Pheasants Forever, Environmental Learning for Kids, the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, the Wildlife Experience, the American Canoe Association, and CTU over 200 people had the chance to try their hand at a wealth of outdoor activities and learn about native wildlife. Spearheaded by CTU, this Colorado Outdoor Mentors Initiative seeks to assemble a cohesive coalition of conservation organizations, state agencies, youth development organizations, and other key outdoor recreation stakeholders in Colorado to focus efforts on providing outdoor education to non-traditional audiences. By partnering with youth mentoring organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and Denver Kids Inc., we can give more children the chance to learn how to fish, hunt, shoot, camp, and experience Colorado’s great outdoors.
Continuing participation for children who are exposed to outdoor opportunities often depends upon having a trusted adult who can share in those activities. By partnering with mentoring organizations, the Outdoor Mentors program will help jointly expose youth and their adult mentors to hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation – planting the seeds for mentors and youth alike to continue to experience the outdoors together. By encouraging mentors to share their enjoyment of the outdoors with a child on a regular basis we can make a significant impact on that child’s perception of the outdoors. Also, it is our experience that many youth who participate in outdoor education programs represent a self-selected population from families who already hunt, fish, and engage in outdoor activities. By partnering with youth development organizations we can reach a population that have never caught a fish, shot a bow, or been in a canoe.
This program follows a successful model set forth by Pass it On Outdoor Mentors in Kansas. Pass it On Outdoor Mentors began as a program of Kansas Big Brother Big Sisters in 2002 and focused on recruiting members to spend time outdoors with a child. In 2006, the program spun off into a separate 501(c)3 with the goal of providing support to other youth mentoring organizations throughout the country. Today 20% of community-based matches for Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters participate in Outdoor Mentors programming. In 2011, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Directors unanimously endorsed the Pass it On Outdoor Mentors model as one that “would greatly expand the ability of state fish and wildlife agencies to engage in more and new recruitment and retention activities by leveraging capacities of multiple stakeholder groups.” A recent study by Responsive Management of 37 hunter and angler recruitment and retention programs highlighted one of the great accomplishments of Pass it On Outdoor Mentors. The study showed that 43% of participants in their programs come from families that do not hunt, shoot, or fish – they are reaching the kids who need to be reached. With the second highest rate being 20%, no other program in the study came close to these results. It is our goal to replicate the successes of this program in Colorado.
If you are interested in getting involved with this initiative, or better yet, mentoring a youth in the outdoors, please contact Jake Lemon, CTU Youth Education Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 720-354-2646.