Mar 272005
Authors: Katrina Tamminga

Guests at the First Annual Small Grants Awards and Silent Auction Fund Raiser rushed to put in final bids on their chosen items as the auction's final minutes approached Friday night.

The fund-raiser, sponsored by the Larimer County Open Lands Program, was held at the New Belgium Brewery to honor recipients of the grants and to raise money for the Blue Sky Trail.

K-Lynn Cameron, manager of the Open Lands Program, said all proceeds from the auction will benefit the Blue Sky Trail, which is scheduled to open in early 2006.

"It costs $132,000 for the land and construction of the trail," Cameron said. "All of the land has been bought but only parts of the trail have been complete. We are having a volunteer day on Oct. 1 and 2 for anyone who wants to take part in the construction of this beautiful trail."

Cameron said the trail will stretch 16 miles, connecting the Devil's Backbone Open Space in Loveland to Horsetooth Reservoir and Mountain Park in Fort Collins.

"The trail is west of Fort Collins and Loveland but users will never have to see the cities or cross major streets," Cameron said. "This trail is a legacy for our community because our children and our children's children will be able to enjoy it."

Larimer County citizens donated more than 80 items to auction off. Items included photographs, paintings, bicycle fittings and gift certificates.

Jim Digby, a professional photographer from Larimer County, donated a photograph of Pike's Peak. Digby and his wife, Nancy, said they were happy to donate to the cause.

"I think it's a great way to raise money and a good deal," Digby said. "It isn't all taxpayers' money and those who will use the trail will help pay for it."

The program also recognized those receiving grants from the Open Lands Program.

Kerri Rollins, the fund development and outreach specialist for the Open Lands Program, said $10,000 in small grants is awarded each year to groups throughout Larimer County. The grants benefit projects that enhance open lands and provide opportunity for environmental education and outdoor recreation.

Marilyn Colter, the director of the Red Feather Lakes Community Library, said the Open Lands Program awarded the library $1,800 to be used to create a native species demonstration garden at the library.

"It was so exciting to receive money for our garden," Colter said. "It is also nice to be honored for the work we are doing in protecting species native to Colorado."

Rollins said the grants come from the Help Preserve Open Spaces quarter-cent sales tax that was approved by Larimer County citizens in 1995.

Ann Montoya, the education coordinator for parks and open lands, said it is important for the Open Lands Program to preserve money from the sales tax because it is a way to enhance natural areas throughout Larimer County.

This year, the Open Lands Program awarded small grants to the Northwest Neighborhood Association, the River Glen Homeowner's Association, Trees, Water and People, Front Range Community College, Red Feather Lakes Community Library, Educo School of Colorado, and Trappers Point Homeowner's Association.

Montoya said members of CSUnity at CSU will work with the nonprofit organization Trees, Water and People to provide native or drought-tolerant landscaping around the South Bay campground and camper cabins at Horsetooth Reservoir.

"The grants are more than just protecting the land," Montoya said. "The grants are powerful. The recipients have the power to educate and experience firsthand how the earth and our surrounding environment can enhance and improve people's lifestyles."

She said those interested in applying for a grant must fill out an application and provide a tour of the site to the members of the Open Lands Program.

The New Belgium Brewery provided the food and facilities for the event.

"We have worked with and donated to the Open Lands Program in the past," said Kari Fletcher, the philanthropy coordinator at the New Belgium Brewery. "They do great work and it is a good cause."

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