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Gear lending library up and running in Cortez

SCYC looks to parks-type recreation opportunities
A boarder soars through the air at the Cortez Skate Park. This year, the SCYC gear lending library will focus on lending out items like scooters and basketballs, instead of camping and hiking gear.

COVID-19 may have disrupted normal operations of almost everything this year, but the great outdoors is still readily available — and the School Community Youth Collaborative wants to help young people get outside.

SCYC, a local nonprofit supporting youths and youth empowerment, is operating a free gear lending library for the second year in a row. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, it has shifted its model somewhat: Instead of lending out camping and hiking supplies, this summer’s gear is primarily focused on park-based recreation.

“Any opportunity for people and kids to be outside, I think is really important,” said Kristen Tworek, assistant director of SCYC.

The gear lending library opened up in spring 2019, after the Montezuma Inspire Coalition received funding for it from Great Outdoors Colorado.

The coalition needed a partner nonprofit to operate the library, though, and SCYC volunteered.

Tworek said she was really excited about the opportunity, as an outdoors enthusiast who wants to help get young people outside. Access to quality gear can make a big difference in a young person’s experience with the outdoors, she said.

“It doesn’t have to be expensive gear, but if you have some stable shoes and if you have a warm sleeping bag, you’re going to have a better experience,” she said.

Last year, they lent out some camping gear to a few groups in the spring and summer. This year, SCYC was preparing for spring 2020, which they anticipated would be a big season for end-of-year class trips. Then COVID-19 hit.

“We quickly realized that school groups were not going to be going on camping trips,” Tworek said.

It didn’t seem safe to lend out sleeping bags or tents, particularly since cleaning procedures for different fabrics and materials were somewhat unclear.

So instead, they decided to switch up the model to cater to families and kids to use at the park. They purchased scooters and game supplies such as basketballs or volleyballs, able to be reserved through the weekend.

The new model of gear lending kicked off a few weeks ago. People can reserve supplies online through the SCYC website, with reservations lasting from Thursday through Monday.

Starting this week, SCYC will host a gear extravaganza every Thursday, bringing the whole collection of supplies to Parque de Vida, right by the Cortez Recreation Center. Thursday from 4-7 p.m., locals can drop by and try out the various items at the park.

Borrowers can also check out equipment from the park at this time. Gear will first be distributed to those who make a reservation, but if any equipment is available at the Thursday park session, people can check them out then as well.