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TPWD CO-OP Awards Nearly $1.5 Million in Grants to Texas Communities

Media Contact: TPWD News Business Hours, 512-389-8030

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AUSTIN – Thirty-nine organizations across the state have been awarded nearly $1.5 million in grants through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (TPWD) Community Outdoor Outreach Program (CO-OP). This support helps connect Texas communities with their natural environment, provide hands-on environmental education and introduce underserved communities to outdoor recreation skills.

The grants will help fund programs such as weekly fishing and kayaking experiences for all fourth-grade students at Livingston Intermediate School, a peer-mentoring program for Central Texas girls to explore the Pedernales River Corridor, and hunting opportunities for young people battling life-threatening illnesses.

TPWD developed the CO-OP in 1996 to help introduce underserved populations to environmental education, conservation and outdoor recreation programs.

The program is authorized by the Texas Legislature through TPWD’s 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, transportation, liability insurance and up to 40 percent of staffing costs.

CO-OP grant funding is available to tax-exempt non-profit organizations, municipalities, universities and local school districts. Over the last 20 years, nearly 700 grants have been awarded to communities across Texas.

The following organizations will receive funding in 2017:


Hardin-Simmons University — $23,164 — Funding will support multiple initiatives focused on outdoor education for underserved youth. Activities include a 6 week outdoor environmental education camp for ages 3-5, a weeklong day camp for girls ages 10-14 and a two-week summer training camp for college students designed to create the next generation of outdoor leaders. 


Ann Richards School Foundation — $32,778 —  The program will allow young women, grades 6-12, to build leadership skills and experience outdoor camping activities during school breaks. Students will camp in state parks where they will hike, paddle, rock climb, fish and explore the outdoors as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Camp El Ranchito — $40,600 — Young adult participants will follow the journey of the Colorado River during this two week Gulf Coast Expedition. These explorers will investigate river and estuarine ecology and conduct service projects from Austin to the Matagorda Bay Nature Park.

Camp Fire Central Texas – $40,600 — Two hundred and fifty Del Valle middle school students & other youth will participate in outdoor education, field trips and backpacking clubs. Activities include camping, backpacking, fishing and paddling as part of their path to becoming environmental stewards.

Chautauqua Foundation – $49,300 The Colorado River will become an outdoor classroom for 250 elementary school children. Activities include teaching water safety, emphasizing the importance of Barton Springs, incorporating nature photography and orienteering on the water, and an overnight canoe trip.

Explore Austin – $18,747 — Two hundred and seventy underserved youth grades 6-12 will participate in a long-term mentoring and outdoor adventure program. This project includes mentor-led Saturday Challenges and Summer Wilderness Trips to introduce youth to mountain biking, kayaking, rocking climbing and orienteering in outdoor nature-based programs.

Families in Nature — $44,820 — Connects children and their families to nature as well as to each other, allowing 260 participants to explore the outdoors. Canoeing, camping, fishing, nature photography and birding are just few of the activities planned that will create the next conservationists.

Keep Austin Beautiful — $27,000 — This program allows 275 youth to participate in weekly after school activities and summer camps. This project incorporates field trips and service projects focusing on ecology, water quality, camping and environmental stewardship.

Lower Colorado River Authority — $45,861 Support will allow 350 school students to investigate Matagorda Bay through the Play, Learn, Protect program. Outdoor recreation and education activities include kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, birding and water quality testing.

Partners for Education Agriculture and Sustainability (PEAS) — $39,240 Offers cross-curricular outdoor environmental education programming to low income schools for the 2017-2018 school year. PEAS will provide engaging, hands-on lessons tailored to each school’s needs, overnight camping trips and environmental education training for teachers.

Travis County Health and Human Services — $50,000 The Youth Outdoor Ambassador Program partners with AmeriCorps members and provides engaging science enrichment programs for students at Title 1 schools in Travis County. Project WILD, Angler Education, Texas Aquatic Science and Texas Nature Trackers will be incorporated into outdoor activities.

Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center – $30,086 Through a partnership with Austin ISD, 250 at-risk girls will explore the Pedernales River Corridor through a series of field trips. Peer-mentored girls will engage in aquatic studies, service projects and outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, canoeing, nature photography and bird watching. 


Brenham ISD — $20,857 — The school district will integrate nature-based education programs to support academic achievement. More than 2,300 students will experience field investigations, environmental education and orienteering through outdoor classroom activities. 


IDEA Public Schools — $50,000 — About 16,000 students from the Rio Grande Valley IDEA and area schools will be immersed in learning and exploring the unique Tamaulipan Thornscrub habitat at historic Camp RIO. Children Reel into Nature activities will include environmental education, water quality monitoring, fishing, kayaking and birding.

Cedar Park

Ascend Outdoor Adventures — $46,250 — Provides outdoor experiences for underserved youth and their families who might otherwise never do so and equips them for a lifetime of outdoor adventure. Backpacking, canoeing, caving, camping, rock climbing and environmental education and more are part of the thrilling adventures offered throughout Central and North Texas. 


Woods & Water Kids Adventures— $50,000 This project will introduce, train and build outdoor skills for nearly 500 youth and their families. These activities will take place in the Houston area and focus on hunting, fishing, camping and learning the value of conservation. 

Corpus Christi

Youth Odyssey, Inc. —  $50,000 — Youth between the ages of 10-17 will participate in kayaking, camping, hiking, rock climbing and backpacking through this life-skills program. These outdoor activities will incorporate communication, teamwork, problem-solving and leadership skills to help students reach their goals. 

Fort Worth

Botanical Research Institute of Texas — $32,142 — Over 100 youth will attend a yearlong environmental leadership program that focuses on scientific investigations and stewardship.  Activities include field trips, water quality monitoring, wildlife viewing, native plant gardening, fishing, canoeing and camping. 

Camp Fire First Texas — $50,000 Provides nature-based, outdoor explorations at Camp El Tesoro, an outdoor science and math lab. They will assist schools in fostering environmental stewardship through archery, fossil collecting, bird and flower identification and orienteering.


Williamson County Juvenile Services — $28,282 — Through the Get Outdoors program, 250 youth within the juvenile justice system and their families will participate in outdoor adventures such as biking, fishing, rock-climbing, camping, kayaking in state parks and along Texas Rivers. 


Forest Lawn Missionary Baptist Church — $47,050 — Introduces underserved communities to natural resources in the Houston and surrounding areas. All age levels will have the opportunity to experience aquatic studies, fishing, hunting, boating and camping.

Galveston Bay Foundation — $30,574 — Provides hands-on experiences for 840 students through oyster reef restoration activities. Students learn about coastal wetlands by cultivating smooth cordgrass at their school then transplanting the grass on newly formed oyster bars in Galveston Bay.

Houston Parks and Recreation — $40,000 —  About 3,400 inner city kids will participate in Houston PARKS Adventure- a collaborative, community-based program promoting nature education, conservation and outdoor recreation. Activities include camping, birding, archery, and fishing, just to name a few.

Precinct2gether — $44,560 — Over 550 summer campers will visit Battleship Texas, Brazos Bend State Park, Sheldon Lake State Park, San Jacinto Monument and other natural areas in Texas to provide outdoor education opportunities for youth.

The Woods Project — $46,995 — About 500 low income middle and high school students will participate in wilderness education and exploration experiences. During this yearlong project, students experience will the outdoors through backpacking, canoeing, camping, outdoor service projects and more. 


Cedar Valley College — $50,000 —  Village Tech School high school students enrolled in this dual-credit college program will experience Cedar Hill State Park. Through multiple field trips, students and their families will hike, bike, bird watch and camp to enhance their academic STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math) curriculum. 


Webb County Sheriff’s Office — $50,000 —  About 250 youth under the direction of the Police Athletic League will participate in 12 monthly excursions to State Parks and other natural area to learn outdoor recreation activities such as fishing, hunting, birding and camping. 


Livingston ISD — $20,557 — All fourth-grade students at Livingston Intermediate School will learn how to fish and kayak at the pond located on their property during gym class each week. Angler Education principles are taught along with advanced fishing and kayaking skills to expose every student at their school to these water activities. 

New Braunfels

Communities in Schools of South Central Texas — $44,742 — First generation college students will get academic and social support using the outdoors as a classroom. Through peer mentoring, students will experience camping, backpacking, rock climbing, caving and more.


City of Pasadena Parks and Recreation — $10,791 — Hosts free family outdoor recreation classes for the public and incorporates fun trips for the local community including zombie survival skill events, youth fishing trips, mother-daughter fishing trips and family camping trips. 


Hunt with Heart — $28,161 — Young people battling severe or life threating illness will enjoy outdoor recreational activities such as hunting, fishing and shooting sports. Additionally, these young people and their families will experience a weekend camping experience to explore the natural world. 


Kidfish Foundation — $23,311 — Students are introduced to KIDFISH College, which promotes awareness of aquatic habitats, fish identification and brings fishing adventures to local schools. 

Round Rock

Round Rock ISD — $37,776 — Expand existing programs at Laurel Mountain Elementary to incorporate nature photography, fishing and environmental education. This project will monitor wildlife data collected at their school, using iNaturalist, and incorporate off-site trips for students. 

San Antonio

Northside ISD — $23,512 — Project ACORN provides place-based science field experiences to local natural areas for 900 students in grades K-8. Young scientist will investigate local ecosystems to collect data participate in service projects that increase biodiversity. Peer-mentored students will study the aquatic habitats of Guadalupe River State Park. 

San Marcos

Texas State University — $49,451 — University students will apply their course work as they lead experience-based outdoor recreation for under-served adolescents. Over 270 youth will dig into camping, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, geocaching and environmental education.


Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) — $44,044 — GBRA and Victoria ISD will partner in aquatic science explorations and field trips. About 250 high school students will investigate the unique fresh and salt water habitats formed by the Guadalupe River.

South Padre Island

City of South Padre Island — $18,271 — About 750 middle and high school students of Port Isabel will participate in field trips to South Padre Island for hands-on learning opportunities on coastal management ecology, environmental science, wildlife and natural resource management. 


Manhood Achievement Network — $49,998 — Connects youth within Spring ISD to their natural environment and introduces young people to outdoor activities including fishing, nature photography, backpacking, mountain biking, archery, wildlife viewing and more.


Katherine Anne Porter School —  $48,111 — Offers Forestry and Woodland Ecosystems, Wildlife and Fisheries, Outdoor Recreation and Hike and Read physical education courses to high school students and coordinates an Outdoor Adventure Club to foster the next generation of conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts. 

To learn more about the CO-OP program, visit the program’s webpage on the TPWD website.