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Going Wild with Great Outdoors Colorado

Colorado Lottery dollars were used through GOCO to create Staunton State Park.

GOCO invested more than $10 million in the creation and development of Colorado's newest state park, Staunton State Park.

Staunton State Park is less than an hour from Denver.

Great Outdoors Colorado was key to the creation of the state's newest state park, Staunton State Park, less than a one-hour drive from downtown Denver. Find out how Colorado Lottery dollars are used through Great Outdoors Colorado to make the state a playground for one and all. 
Colorado has a unique way of maintaining and creating many of the places that make it such a desirable place to live, work and play by using lottery proceeds to fund everything from trails to skateparks.
The process that created Great Outdoors Colorado began in 1990 when Governor Roy Romer created a committee to review how to sustain and enhance the state's outdoor resources. The committee included Ken Salazar, who was most recently the United States Secretary of the Interior. In 1992 voters approved a constitutional amendment that redirected lottery proceeds to preserve, protect and enhance Colorado's trails, wildlife, open space, parks and rivers. Up to 50 percent of Colorado Lottery proceeds are redirected to Great Outdoors Colorado each year. 
"This is the only statewide funding source that can fund things from small neighborhood parks and playgrounds, trails, state parks, wilderness, river corridors and the landscapes that Colorado is known for," says Lise Aangeenbrug, Executive Director of Great Outdoors Colorado.
Staunton State Park is less than an hour from Denver. Seeing Is believing
Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invested more than $10 million in the creation and development of Colorado's newest state park, Staunton State Park, which opened to the public in May.
In 1986, Frances H. Staunton donated her family's 1,700-acre property to Colorado Parks & Wildlife. This incredible generosity was not enough however and GOCO funds -- along with additional monies from the Colorado Lottery and the State Land Board -- were awarded to acquire adjacent ranch property, build trails and more so that it could become the 3,800-acre park it is today. 
"Our partnerships with these Colorado state agencies have enabled us to create and develop this park," says State Park Manager Jennifer Anderson. "They contributed expertise in planning and land management, provided funding for land acquisition and park development."
Located less than a one-hour drive from downtown Denver near Pine, Staunton State Park boasts miles of multi-use trails leading to waterfalls, fishing ponds and historic ranch buildings, rock climbing, wildlife viewing and picnic sites. 
"Staunton's dramatic granite outcrops provide spectacular scenery and a variety of terrain that yield a diversity of habitats throughout the park," says Jeff Thompson, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Resource Stewardship Program Coordinator. "Future park visitors will have unique opportunities to experience rare and unexpected plant communities as well as to observe a broad array of wildlife species." 
None of it would have happened without GOCO. "It's been more than 30 years since Colorado State Parks has been able to open a park so close to the Denver metro area and provide a place where families can get in a car and in less than one hour be enjoying nature," Aangeenbrug says. "It's a really unique opportunity in Denver."
Now that Staunton is open, the relationship with GOCO will continue. "Only the first phase of the visitor resources have been developed," Aangeenbrug explains. 
That's not all, folks!Colorado Lottery dollars were used through GOCO to create the state park.
With over 3,500 projects in all 64 counties in the state funded with over $750 million from GOCO, the 20th anniversary served as an opportunity to make sure Coloradans know as much as possible about what GOCO does and in June they launched their new website.
"We live in one of the most beautiful places in the country and a big part of why people want to live, work and play here is close-to-home recreation opportunities," Aangeenbrug says. "GOCO passed twenty years ago and it's the only funding of its kind in the nation. We wanted to be sure that people had a good, easy way to access all the things we've funded that benefit Coloradans."
Basically, it takes people in various organizations to apply for the grants that GOCO provides so that people across the state (and those visiting the state) can enjoy the great outdoors in Colorado. "We wanted to make sure the citizens that passed the amendment knew how the money was being used and how they can go visit a project," Aangeenbrug explains. 
In the next grant cycle, GOCO will be offering an opportunity to provide larger grants for trails around the state and land acquisitions for additional recreation or conservation. In addition, they will do a second cycle of grants for the School Play Yard Initiative. 
Funded by GOCO and the Colorado Health Foundation, the School Play Yard Initiative kicked off last year and welcomed children's opinions in the design process to improve their school playgrounds. Not only are 6,000 Colorado students getting new places to play and learning about the outdoors through the process, but these sites will be open to the public when school is not in session. 
The bottom line is that whether it's a new state park, a mountain trail or a school playground, Great Outdoors Colorado was created to benefit everyone. "We are funded by the Colorado Lottery and not tax dollars," Aangeenbrug says. "It takes a tremendous number of partners and we look to those partners to breathe life into the amendment, to tell us what they need and want in their community."

Read more articles by Mindy Sink.

Mindy is a freelance writer and author of Walking DenverMoon Handbooks Guide to Denver and co-author of Colorado Organic: Cooking Seasonally, Eating Locally
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