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Community Outdoor Outreach Program Provides Opportunity to Get Outside

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AUSTIN – Texas children will have more opportunities to explore the state’s natural resources, thanks to the nearly $1.5 million in 40 grants awarded this year through Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Community Outdoor Outreach Program (CO-OP). The grants help fund community-based youth and family outdoors-oriented programs and activities like camping, backpacking, kayaking and service projects.

CO-OP was developed by TPWD in 1996 to help introduce underserved populations to environmental education, conservation and outdoor recreation programs. The program is authorized by the Texas State Legislature in the TPWD appropriation budget as a specialized component of the Texas Recreation and Parks Account Program. Grants range from $5,000 to $50,000 and may be used to pay for equipment, cost of leasing, transportation, liability insurance and up to 40 percent for staffing costs. To date, nearly 660 grants have been awarded around the state to assist in this effort.

“CO-OP began as a way to introduce people to TPWD’s programs and sites,” said CO-OP Director Darlene Lewis, who has been with the program since its inception. “It has now grown to include environmental and conservation projects, as well as programs designed to enhance science curriculum in Texas schools. Over 52 school districts and 14 universities and colleges have received grants since 1996.”

The following organizations will receive funding:


Abilene ISD — 500 students will participate in 12 field trips as part of the district’s Wonders in Nature program, an environmental education program with emphasis on nature photography and field investigations at Abilene State Park. ($12,653)


American Youthworks – 125 members will conduct service projects in Texas State Parks while enjoying camping and other outdoor related activities. ($33,902)

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center – Pre-school aged children will be the recipients of monthly field trips to connect with the natural world through a combination of sensory activity, guided nature walks and nature play. ($9,485)

One Blood Initiative, Inc. – Colorado Bend and McKinney Falls are just two of the state parks targeted for this program. Kayaking, fishing, orienteering, backpacking and rock climbing are included in this program. ($48,588)

Salvation-Army-Austin Shelter for Women and Children – Adventure therapy for homeless females and their children. Weekly activities to state and local parks focused on the environment, rock climbing, hiking and geocaching. ($13,855)

Save Barton Creek Association – Field trips to local rivers, creeks and aquifer will be conducted for 340 elementary students. Activities include photography, canoeing, orienteering and scavenger hunt. ($48,800)

YMCA of Austin – Ongoing year-round activities planned to get families outdoors canoeing, hiking, fishing, archery and more. ($31,530)


Central Texas Master Naturalist Chapter – 600 Central Texas students including military families will participate in trail maintenance and habitat restoration service projects. The focus will help combat invasive plant communities and native plant revegetation strategies creating habitat for Golden Cheek Warbler and the Black Capped Vireo. ($41,712)


STEMS Alumni Association – College students will mentor high school students during outdoor camping trips, service projects and visits to state parks. ($36,700)

College Station

Texas A & M AgriLife Extension – 400 kids from College Station and the Valley will be exposed to conservation and environmental education activities. ($45,255)


City of Conroe — Outdoor skills such as trip planning, camping, outdoor cooking, fishing and more will be on the agenda for teens at the Oscar Johnson Jr. community center. ($28,500)

Corpus Christi

City of Corpus Christi – This new youth program will increase students’ environmental literacy fostering future environmental stewards. Utilizing the new Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve and Learning Center, participants will study biodiversity, ocean acidification, overfishing and pollution. ($48,033)

South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center – Low-income youth will experience a week long summer camp thanks to scholarships for the sessions. Three day birding programs as well as nature photography will be offered. ($48,693)


Dallas Parks Foundation — 360 inner city youth will participate in this new outdoor adventure program during the summer. Activities include: mountain biking, angler and archery education, geocaching and nature photography. ($49,672)

Lumin Education – Field trips for elementary school students to Trinity River Audubon and the Dallas ISD Environmental Education center are in the works for more than 300 youth. ($45,630)

Sustainable Education Solutions – This charter school-private college partnership will allow 250 participants to use the Great Trinity Forest as their learning laboratory. Activities include fishing, kayaking, birding, and camping. ($48,800)


City Kids Adventures – A year round mentoring/outdoor education program for inner city youth ranging in age from 10-17. Activities include hunting, fishing, archery, kayaking and hunter, boating and angler safety programs. ($50,000)


Boys & Girls Club of Edinburg – 500 youth will study nature through interactive lessons in birding, environmental conservation and more. They will also visit state parks and the World Birding Centers. ($35,500)

El Paso

City of El Paso – More than 14-hundred students from the area’s rec centers will experience desert hiking and camping at Franklin Mountains State Park and preservation of natural areas at Hueco Tanks. ($44,686)


Boys & Girls Club of Brazoria County – Birding, nature hikes, mountain biking and nature photography are just some of the activities in the future for kids at this club. A visit to Sea Center Texas is included. ($30,140)


Artist Boat – Habitat restoration walking adventures, prairie potting workshops and prairie restoration will keep 900 area students busy over the next year. ($46,767)

Grand Prairie

Young Women’s Leadership Academy at Arnold – 100 girls will experience the outdoors camping and conducting service projects. Their instructors will receive the Masters Outdoor Leadership Training from our Texas Outdoor Family staff. ($38,945)


Blackwood Land Institute – Students will attend environmental educational workshops on biomimicry and participate in activities such as birding, camping, outdoor cooking and water harvesting. ($36,850)


Bayou Preservation Association – Half day watershed field trips for Houston area students. Project will include Project Wild and service projects. ($47,166)

City Wide Club of Clubs –250 youth from Houston’s Third Ward will experience camping, outdoor cooking, fishing, backpacking, archery, nature photography and kayaking. ($48,437)

Houston ISD – National Archery in Schools program, angler education and outdoor survival skills are just a few of the activities to be enjoyed by secondary students in this district. ($50,000)

Nature & Eclectic Outdoors (NEO) – This initiative is targeting inner city kids and families giving them the skills to enjoy and explore nature. Events are scheduled at Sheldon Lake, Brazos Bend and Galveston Island State parks. ($48,593)

Peoples United Summit – At-risk youth will explore monthly outdoor adventures. Nature hikes, fishing, archery, camping and kayaking. ($44,750)


City of Kingsville Parks & Recreation – Introduce outdoor recreation to the entire community including families and the elderly. Shooting sports, archery, fishing, canoeing and birding activities are planned. ($44,410)

New Braunfels

New Braunfels Parks & Recreation – Program participants will explore the new Fischer Park while they engage in fly fishing, water safety, summer day camps, learn about native Texas wildlife and local conservation efforts. ($17,854)


Boys & Girls Club of Pharr – Family biking adventures at Bentsen, Estero Llano Grande state parks are among the activities planned for this community. ($48,333)

Red Oak

The Oaks Fellowship – Over 2-thousand youth will participate camping, wildlife studies, hiking, shooting sports and community service projects. ($25,202)


North Dallas Adventist Academy – High school students will head out to Big Bend National Park for camping, outdoor cooking, caving, nature photography and hands-on science instruction. ($23,270)

San Antonio

Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas – Nature photography workshops for kids and families. ($21,044)

Texas Brigades – 30 students will attend a week-long camp in Galveston focusing on scientific sampling, fish biology, seining, oyster dredging and coastal ecology. ($23,470)

Texas Wildlife Association – The entire 7th grade class at Fort Worth ISD’s McClung Middle school will travel to Cedar Hill State Park to engage in environmental education activities focused on water and human impact on watersheds aligned with state curriculum standards. ($40,000)

San Juan

San Juan Parks & Recreation – Students from Pharr, San Juan and Alamo school districts will participate in monthly adventures to parks including fishing, birdwatching, camping and geocaching. ($30,467)


City of Smithville Parks & Recreation – Activities are planned at Bastrop and Buescher state parks. Participants will kayak, fish, birding and geocaching. ($26,229)


Paraplegics On Independent Nature Trips (POINT) – Monthly adapted outdoor recreational activities are planned such as shooting sports, fishing and kayaking. ($39,611)


Baylor University Campus Recreation – 250 Waco area students will participate in kayaking, mountain biking, rock climbing and will visit Mother Neff, Lake Whitney, Meridian and Lake Mineral Wells state parks. ($50,000)

To find out more about the CO-OP program, visit the program’s website at