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> Departments > Natural Resources > Open Lands Program > Small Grants for Community Partnering

Small Grants for Community Partnering

photo of restoration
Rocky Mountain Flycasters/Trout Unlimited
North Fork Poudre Restoration

The deadline has passed for this year's grant cycle. The next round of applications will be due in early September, 2015.

  • Up to $2,000 per year per project
  • Proposals must meet each of the selection criteria

The Larimer County Open Lands' Small Grants for Community Partnering program provides funds to individuals, neighborhood groups, homeowner associations, school groups, non-profits, and other appropriate local organizations for projects on public and private lands that connect people to the land, and that:

  • enhance natural areas, improve open spaces, and provide opportunities for environmental and outdoor education, or
  • provide opportunities for people to connect to the land through agriculture, increased access to open lands, or research on open spaces.

Grants are funded by the Help Preserve Open Spaces 1/4-cent sales tax initially approved by Larimer County citizens in 1995 and extended by the citizens in 1999. Since 1998, about $171,000 has been awarded to 121 community and neighborhood projects. Google Map of funding history, 1998 - 2013.

How to Apply | Background | Grant Selection Criteria | Award Selection Process | Last Year's Awards

How to Apply


  • Read the "Grant Selection Criteria" below to be sure this funding is right for your project. Contact Zac Wiebe at or (970) 619-4534 with questions.
  • The deadline has passed for this year's grant cycle. The next round of applications will be due in early September, 2015.

Ways to get an application:

photo of trail crew
Poudre Wilderness Volunteers - Trail Crew


The Larimer County Small Grants Program is an initiative of the Larimer County Open Lands Program to disburse Help Preserve Open Spaces Sales Tax dollars throughout the County for projects related to conservation and enhancement of, and recreation and/or education on, open space on public and private lands. Initiated in 1997 with a trial project (Ptarmigan Run), the program funded six projects the following year.

In 2001, the program was formalized in the Open Lands Master Plan, adopted by the Larimer County Open Lands Advisory Board and the Board of County Commissioners and subsequently incorporated into the Larimer County Land Use Code. In 2006, the small grants subcommittee of the Open Lands Advisory Board formalized grant selection criteria, procedures, and a project score card to help the subcommittee objectively select projects for funding.

In 2009, the Open Lands Program focus was to connect people and communities to the lands that had been successfully conserved and protected: People who are connected to the land care about what happens to it. The Open Lands Advisory Board approved expansion of the Small Grants Program into new areas which promote land connections: "agriculture," "increased access to open spaces and natural areas," and "research on Larimer County open spaces." These were in addition to the original grant category, "protection or enhancement of open space, trails, natural areas, wildlife habitat, river areas, and wetlands on private or public land." The Small Grants Program was renamed to Small Grants for Community Partnering. Funding was increased from $10,000 to $20,000 annually to be awarded for grants up to $2,000 each.

In 2012, the intent of the program was reaffirmed: to provide citizens with direct access to open spaces sales tax dollars; to allow citizens to leverage dollars with seed money for project implementation; to encourage citizen partnerships; to reach communities with which the program has not historically interacted; and to increase visibility, support, and appreciation for the Open Lands Program.

photo of gardeners
Loveland Youth Gardeners
Photo by Ernst Strenge

Grant Selection Criteria

The following criteria will be used to determine application retention, rejection, and funding amounts.

A proposed project must meet all of the following criteria:


  1. Proposed projects must be in accordance with the mission of the Larimer County Open Lands Program:

    "The mission of the Larimer County Open Lands Program is to preserve and protect significant open space, natural areas, and wildlife habitat and develop parks and trails for present and future generations. These open lands provide opportunities for leisure, human renewal and protection of our natural and cultural resources."

Who can apply?

  1. Anyone can apply, with the following exceptions and/or parameters:
    1. Government agencies already receiving Help Preserve Open Spaces tax dollars may not apply directly.
    2. For projects on public lands and for government agencies, excluding educational institutions, the applicant must be a 501c3 non-profit or other non-governmental entity with an active, leadership role in the project.
    3. With the grant application: all affected land owners must agree in writing with the project; Homeowners' and Property Owners' Associations must submit a copy of board meeting minutes approving the project; educational institutions must provide a letter from the appropriate facilities director agreeing to the specific project.

What are the categories?

  1. Proposed projects must be in one or more of the Small Grants for Community Partnering categories:
    1. Provides or enhances natural areas, including wildlife habitat, river areas, and wetlands
    2. Provides linkages with existing open lands (Linkages may be either trails or wildlife habitat.)
    3. Provides opportunities for environmental education, outdoor recreation, or nature interpretation
    4. Provides opportunities for people to connect with the land via parks, agriculture, increased access to open spaces and natural areas, or research on Larimer County open spaces
  2. Proposed "Agriculture" projects must meet the following criteria:
    1. Provision of local food production, including community gardens, CSAs, etc., with a preference for projects which:
      • are community minded (connecting a community and its people to an area)
      • are conservation minded, and
      • have local distribution
  3. Proposed "Increased Access to Open Spaces and Natural Areas" projects must meet the following criteria:
    1. Getting people out into designated open spaces or natural areas having a nexus with the open spaces sales tax dollars. Projects may be one or more of the following:
      • nature-based education
      • nature-based health and wellness programs
      • nature-based recreation
      • transportation to open spaces and natural areas
    2. Projects on Larimer County properties must be approved through the special event process before funding.
  4. Proposed "Research on Larimer County Open Spaces" projects must meet the following criteria:
    1. Provision of new information about or a better understanding of Larimer County Department of Natural Resources' properties which have a nexus with the open spaces sales tax dollars, or the people who use those properties. Projects should encourage intellectual curiosity about our natural world and/or how people connect to it. Research projects may be:
      • ecological (examples: species, plants, etc.)
      • behavioral (example: relationships of people to open spaces, etc.)
      • cultural (examples: barriers to use of open spaces, historical use of open spaces, etc.)
    2. Project must be approved through the special event process before funding.
    3. Funding for research may not be used for college or university overhead or administrative costs.

What are funding limitations?

  1. Small grant funds are for project implementation only and may not be used for salaries and/or project planning expenses, except for projects categorized as "Research on Larimer County Open Spaces."
  2. Projects that include planting and/or habitat improvement must use native and/or non-invasive, drought-resistant plant species appropriate for the selected environment, except for projects categorized as "Agriculture."
  3. Tools and other equipment (e.g. GPS units, weed sprayers, etc.) may be funded with an acceptable justification of why they are required for the project. A disposition plan following use must be provided. Requests for funds for tools and/or equipment that will be donated to a public agency or organization after the intended use will be looked upon more favorably.
  4. Transportation expenses will be funded only for projects categorized as "Increased Access to Open Spaces and Natural Areas" or "Research on Larimer County Open Spaces."
  5. If applicable, a long-term maintenance plan may be required and should be included in the application.

Where can projects be located?

  1. Grant dollars will be distributed in Larimer County only, and to the extent possible, throughout the entire county.
  2. Projects may be located within city or town limits.
  3. Proposed projects must be land or water based with preference to those associated with protected land (e.g., HOA's convenant-protected lands, neighborhood parks, etc.)
  4. Providing public access and/or benefit would be looked upon more highly, but not required.

Other details

  1. Projects must have a minimum match of 50% of the requested dollar amount (for example, a $1,000 request requires a $500 match). The match may be from in-kind services, volunteer hours, private dollars, and/or other funding sources (e.g. other grants).
  2. A multi-phased project may be funded over multiple years. Requests for new funding will be partially dependent on past project accomplishments. If money received in previous funding years has not been spent at the time of the new application, new dollars will not be granted to the project until that money has been spent on its dedicated purpose and a final report submitted. A complete, new application is required during each grant cycle that funds are being requested.
  3. If a funded project changes from the initial application and budget, a written change request must be submitted before any dollars are spent. The applicant may be asked to resubmit for another grant year if the project changed enough to affect how it would have been rated when in competition with that year's other applications.
  4. A final report is required for all projects.
  5. Projects will be monitored up to one (1) year following project initiation; and, some may be monitored further. Multi-year projects will be monitored annually until the final funding year when future monitoring requirements will be determined. If a project is in unsatisfactory condition, the applicant will be ineligible for future grant awards.

Award Selection Process

Following the application deadline, the coordinator will review all applications to ensure they are complete and meet all of the selection criteria. Incomplete applications or those which do not meet all of the selection criteria will be eliminated from consideration.

After review, a pre-grant-selection site visit will be scheduled for the Open Lands staff and the Open Lands Advisory Board subcommittee members. At the site visit, the applicant will show the location of the proposed project and discuss the details and benefits of the project and why it should be funded.

A "Small Grants for Community Partnering Project Score Card" will be used by each subcommittee and staff member. Scores will be combined to determine the top scoring applications.

The subcommittees final recommendations for funding will be presented to the Open Lands Advisory Board by the Small Grants for Community Partnering Coordinator. The Open Lands Advisory Board makes the final selection of grant awards.

Note: The grant selection process is highly competitive and not all grant proposals will be funded.

If Your Project Is Awarded a Small Grant for Community Partnering

Once a project is selected to receive a small grant, a Contract and a Declaration between Larimer County and the grant recipient will be prepared by the coordinator and sent to the recipient for review and signing. These documents detail the amount of the grant award, specific items funded, the timeline for project completion, monitoring and reporting requirements, and other conditions. The Contract and the Declaration must be signed by both parties before award.

Awards will be presented to the recipients at the Open Lands Advisory Board's April meeting, usually the last Thursday of the month. The Larimer County Board of County Commissioners will hand out the grant checks at the ceremony.

Award recipients must keep track of all project expenditures (including in-kind services and donations) and must save and submit all receipts for items purchased with small grant funds. A Final Report (which includes a summary of the project, before-during-after photos, and a financial summary with copies of all receipts) is due upon project completion. Failure to submit the Final Report will result in automatic disqualification for future awards.

Following project completion, Larimer County staff and/or Open Lands Advisory Board members will conduct a site visit. Further monitoring visits may be necessary in subsequent years depending on the level of monitoring required for a particular project.

Last Year's Awards

photo of 2013 Larimer County Small Grants Award Recipients

2013 Small Grants for
Community Partnering Awards

Photo by Charlie Johnson
Project Applicant Project Name Amount Funded Project Location Project Description
The Growing Project Expansion and Maintenance of Community Gardens at FC Housing Authority Resident Sites $2,000.00 Fort Collins 5 community gardens in FCHA locations
Soaring Eagle Ecology Center Environmental Learning Stations $1,924.50 Red Feather Lake 3 learning/interpretive stations
Friends of Happy Heart Farm Lamb to Sheep $1,997.81 Fort Collins Bringing lambs to the farm to improve growing conditions, and expand educational opportunities
Old Town North Community Garden $1,500.00 Fort Collins Phase 3, garden expansion
Muriel L. MacGregor Charitable Trust Water Tank Project $2,000.00 Estes Park Installation of gravity-fed water tank system to disperse grazing
Northwest Neighbors Beautify Neighborhood Connectors $1,000.00 Fort Collins Add xeriscape plants, repair trails, sign access points, weed control
Colorado Youth Outdoors Herbicide Purchase for Invasive Plant Species Management $1,000.00 east Larimer Herbicide application fopr noxious weeds
Douglas Nolde Merriam's Wild Turkey Population and Habitat Assessment $1,956.45 HTMOS Wild Turkey research
Nat Warning Rock Wren Nest Monitoring $1,761.72 HTMOS, HT Reservoir, DBBOS, RMOS Locate and monitor rock wren nests on Larimer County properties
Mulberry Community Gardens Irrigation system design/plan, irrigation pump, raised beds $1,400.00 Fort Collins Improvement to irrigation system, raised beds
Bruns HOA Bruns Estates Outlot B Open Space $400.00 northeast Loveland Herbicide treatment in a 1st step to improve community open space
Rocky Mountain Cat Conservancy Communities, Cameras, and Conservation $950.00 HTMOS Mountain lion research using wildlife cameras in Horsetooth Mountain Open Space with classes from Front Range CC
Sandy Charles Construction of insulated 4-season high tunnel $2,000.00 Fort Collins Insulated structure to allow 4-season growing
Background Image: Mariana Butte Golf Course by Steve Moore. All rights reserved.