Local businesses and a grant have helped the Piñon Project set up an outdoor-gear library to serve local school programs, youth groups and other organizations.
The inventory of gear is funded by a Great Outdoors Colorado grant, awarded to the Montezuma Land Conservancy in 2017 to promote outdoor recreation. The $1.8 million grant is being distributed by the Conservancy to support local nonprofits.
A storage room at Piñon is stocked with mountain bikes, backpacks, snowshoes, tents, sleeping bags, boating equipment, helmets, first-aid kits, sports equipment and more.
The rentals are free but currently are available only to organizations by reservation, said Faith Coyote, youth activities leader and gear library organizer for Piñon.
“The plan is that this summer the equipment will be available for anyone to check out – youths and adults,” she said.
The goal of the program is to “break down barriers” that stand in the way of people getting outdoors, Coyote said. “People may not have the right gear to go camping, biking or kayaking and this fills that need,” she said. “We are providing an opportunity for the community.”
Outdoor recreation promotes mental and physical health, she said, and allows people to unplug from their phones, computers and social media.
“Instead of staring at photos of outdoor places on social media, why not go out there and enjoy it instead?” Coyote said. “We have great trails and lakes right here.”
Coyote has been visiting local schools to inform them of the new service. Youth groups have already been taking advantage, including one that checked out gear for a camping trip at Jackson Lake State Park.
Piñon staff toured Get Outdoors Leadville to gain insight into best practices on gear-lending libraries. For example, they adopted a repair and replacement policy for gear that is broken negligently. Offenders can pay to fix or replace broken gear, or work it off with volunteer hours. The bikes and camping gear were provided by Cortez businesses Kokopelli Bike and Board and Colorado Love Outdoors at discounted prices, and the packs were donated by Osprey Packs.
Trip leaders are provided an orientation on how to use the gear and lending policies. For more information, contact Coyote at (970) 564-1195, ext. 3842, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.