AARP AARP States Colorado Livable Communities

In Colorado, Small Projects With Big Impact

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The produce grown at the Estes Valley Community Garden is popular with gardeners. But for older adults, bending over the beds can be difficult.

Doyle Baker, vice president of the garden’s board, said some new raised beds will make tending them easier, thanks to a $4,384 AARP Community Challenge grant. The funds, part of the AARP Livable Communities initiative, will also be used to add a handwashing station and green-waste storage shed.

Mary and Barry Hannigan grow chard, kale and lettuce at the community garden. Their Estes Park home has plenty of land, but it also attracts wildlife that enjoy the greens.

The garden’s tall fence keeps out most unwanted critters. “When we have plants at the community garden, they’re a little less vulnerable,” said Mary, 69.

And the payoff is worth the work, added Barry, 69: “When you taste the lettuce that we grow versus the organic lettuce at the grocery, it’s so much better.”

The Estes Valley garden donates plots and produce to a local food bank. It’s one of four grant winners in Colorado and among 184 nationwide this year that received a total of $2.4 million in awards. The projects must be completed by year’s end.

“We are so thrilled to be able to offer these grants that have a meaningful impact in a short period of time toward making communities more livable, not only for older adults but for people of all ages,” said Bob Murphy, AARP Colorado state director.

In Grand Junction, another grant, of $15,000, will benefit those who walk the mile pathway that circles Sherwood Park. Four fitness stations for working out leg, arm and core muscles will be installed adjacent to the path.

Most neighborhood residents are 50 or older, and the equipment provides an important opportunity for a cardio workout and strength training, said Lorie Gregor, the city’s recreation coordinator.

In Aurora, Elevation Community Land Trust provides permanently affordable homeownership opportunities for low- and middle-income residents. Its $12,000 grant project is the first use of a new zoning code that allows four houses to be placed on two lots, in a “green court” setting.

Funding will go toward finishing two energy-efficient residences that were part of a Solar Decathlon collegiate competition. Of the two other environmentally friendly homes for the site, one is being built using shipping containers. The

cottage-sized structures will face a common green courtyard with native plant landscaping.

In Lakewood, residents of Creekside, an affordable apartment community for older adults, faced social isolation during the pandemic, said Alexis Moore, the city’s principal planner. So in partnership with 40 West Arts District, the city developed plans for an innovative mural, funded by a $9,000 grant, for Creekside residents and the families at a nearby housing complex.

Local artists designed paint-by-number kits that residents worked on in their homes. The individual pieces will become one large installation along a four-mile public recreation path.

Moore called it “an outdoor gallery experience where people can do something that doesn’t cost money and brings joy.”

View the nationwide list of 2020 AARP Community Challenge grant recipients at aarp.org/communitychallenge.

More on Livable Communities

What Is a Livable Community?

Cynthia Pasquale is a writer living in Denver.

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