Great Outdoors Colorado returns

Board to convene Wednesday at Howelsen

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What: Great Outdoors Colorado board and staff meet the public

When: 3:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Olympian Hall in Howelsen Hill Lodge, 845 Howelsen Parkway

— The board of directors of Great Outdoors Colorado would like to know how the average Joe and Jill in Northwest Colorado would like to see their share of lottery proceeds spent during the next five years.

Members of the GOCO staff and board will convene at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in Olympian Hall at Howelsen Hill, to host a public meeting for residents and public officials from five counties to get a clearer sense of their priorities for recreation facilities and open space preservation.

"It's important to us to hear from citizens," GOCO spokeswoman Chris Leding said. "We were created by the general public, and we want to hear what kind of outdoor recreation facilities people want in their communities."

The priority in Steamboat might be new sections of walking trails, for example, Leding said. During their current tour of the state, GOCO officials are hearing that people want more projects that include simpler parks and facilities for children, as well as public spaces emphasizing nature.

GOCO was created by a citizens initiative approved by 58 percent of voters statewide in 1992. It is funded by half of Colorado Lottery proceeds -more than $54 million in fiscal year 2009. The money is used to award grants to local governments and land trusts. It also makes investment through the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Colorado State Parks.

GOCO awarded 109 grants totaling $18.6 million in Routt County through June 2008, but the true number was closer to $30 million with inclusion of $12 million in grants for projects overlapping county lines. The largest share of the $12 million is $9.4 million for the Yampa River Legacy Project.

Small communities in Routt County have not been ignored. Hayden received $7,000 for a skateboard facility and $6,600 for completion of a softball field in 1998.

GOCO was back in Hayden in 2000, with $114,000 to help with a land purchase.

Also in 2000, Phippsburg received $10,000 to upgrade its community park. Oak Creek received a grant of $150,000 in 2004 for Four Seasons Skate Park. And Hayden landed a grant of $200,000 for the Dry Creek Park ball fields in 2007.

GOCO money also has facilitated conservation easements on ranches in the valley.

GOCO grants typically require a substantial match from local governments, but Leding said constricted city and county budgets have not reduced the demand for GOCO funds.

"We have not seen a drop-off in our applications for local grants in parks or open space," Leding said.

Among the GOCO board members planning to attend the meeting in Steamboat are former state senator Norma Anderson, of Lakewood; Fort Collins water expert Philip James; Thomas Swanson, of Evergreen; and former Intrawest spokesman Matt Sugar, of Winter Park.

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