Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien, left, talks to Steamboat Springs Community Youth Corps crew leader Jess Schnittka, right, along with 14-year-old Youth Corps crew members, from right, Max May, Andrew Watterson, Jack Triolo and Kent Barron on Tuesday on Snake Island in the Yampa River.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien, left, talks to Steamboat Springs Community Youth Corps crew leader Jess Schnittka, right, along with 14-year-old Youth Corps crew members, from right, Max May, Andrew Watterson, Jack Triolo and Kent Barron on Tuesday on Snake Island in the Yampa River.

Lieutenant governor promotes outdoor activities during statewide trip

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Steamboat Springs Community Youth Corps crew member Jack Triolo carries out brush from Snake Island.

— On Snake Island in the Yampa River, Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien spent about an hour Tuesday morning talking with a Steamboat Springs Community Youth Corps crew about why they were outside.

Some of the six-member crew of 14-, 15- and 16-year-old boys and girls were clearing a trail that had become overgrown. Others were sanding a bench so it could be repainted. It was part of their work in a two-week session for the youth service organization.

O'Brien said she wanted to interact with active youths during her stop in Steamboat - part of a series of statewide forums to discuss the importance of reconnecting children with the outdoors.

Chatting with the crew, O'Brien stood on a trail with the Yampa surging behind her and Emerald Mountain through the trees to the west. She joked that her mission may not be as much of an issue in Steamboat.

"It's so much easier here to be connected with the outdoors," she told the group. "We're trying to see if there is something connecting youths to outdoors that can be translated to urban communities."

The forum began at 11 a.m. at Bud Werner Memorial Library. It attracted nearly 40 directors of youth programs and organizations, others who work with area youth and interested members of the public.

Sonja Macys is executive director of Yampatika, a nonprofit group that provides outdoor educational activities for youths and adults. She said most parents in Steamboat do a good job of getting their children outside, but Tuesday's event served as a good reminder.

"People don't realize the risks of children slipping away from connecting with nature," she said about a more sedentary lifestyle in which children seek out technological quick fixes such as TV or video games for entertainment.

In her introduction, O'Brien told the group the goals of the forum included learning what worked in Steamboat, which would be passed along to other communities across the state. Ultimately, she said, a statewide strategy would be devised.

"We're not just going to publish another plan," said Wendy Newman, a consultant who is facilitating the program for O'Brien. "But we're going to move forward with your input and your assistance."

Those who attended the forum broke into groups to discuss what's working in Steamboat, what some of the barriers are and how to overcome them. That input will be added to what's already been compiled from the four previous forums and the five that have yet to take place.

Newman said after the last forum in September, they will begin working with representatives from various public, private and nonprofit organizations to figure out what could be included in the statewide initiative.

She said that effort will include a Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights to dictate experiences all Colorado children should have by the time they're 18 years old.

After moving to Steamboat about a year ago, Vickie Clark, director of the Routt County Department of Human Services, said she was pleased to hear about what was going on at the state level.

Gretchen Van De Carr, executive director of Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, a youth service organization, said she is working toward some of the state-level initiatives she heard about from O'Brien and Newman.

"It's one of my personal and professional visions to create a coalition of youth-serving environmental agencies in Northwest Colorado," she said. "This is exactly what I'm looking at."

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