Oak Creek, Steamboat projects recognized by Colorado Lottery | SteamboatToday.com

Oak Creek, Steamboat projects recognized by Colorado Lottery

Austin Colbert

— When Oak Creek Mayor Nikki Knoebel and LiveWell Northwest Colorado community coordinator Barb Parnell first started working together to further develop the town's outdoor and recreational opportunities, there was a lot of work to do. But with the help of a grant from Great Outdoors Colorado and the Colorado Lottery, the South Routt community was able to give its local park a major transformation.

"It was the community working together, and I think that's a beautiful thing to see," Parnell said. "We just started tackling those things one by one, together as a community. They don't have any resources at all, financially or otherwise. But they have heart. They were able to accomplish a whole heck of a lot."

Earlier this week, the town of Oak Creek was recognized for its work regarding the revitalization of Decker Park when it became a 2015 Starburst Award recipient, awarded annually by the Colorado Lottery to projects that use lottery funds and grants.

Oak Creek received $62,340 from Great Outdoors Colorado, which is funded by the Colorado Lottery, and used the money as part of a $135,040 spruce-up project at Decker Park. The improvements included an upgraded basketball court, new trail around the park, Frisbee golf course and music stage. It was the second GOCO grant the town had received, the first coming in 2011, when it built a bike pump track on land formerly used for sewage.

"We were really excited to be able to make upgrades to our park, which is already an amazing park," Knoebel said. "We received that grant first, and then we applied for this. We didn't know if we would get it, and we were able to. So it was really nice. … We were able to add a lot of great fun new things in town. Just really excited that they gave us a Starburst Award on top of that."

Improvements to Decker Park are ongoing, but will be completed by the end of the summer. The town plans to hold a large Labor Day celebration at the park to show off its new assets.

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"By Labor Day weekend, we hope to highlight all the new, fun features we have at the park," Knoebel said.

City of Steamboat Springs also recognized with two awards

The City of Steamboat Springs received two 2015 Starburst Awards from the Colorado Lottery this week, receiving recognition for projects regarding the creation of the Morning Gloria Trail on Emerald Mountain last summer and for improvements made to the Yampa River.

"It's kind of special for them to look at all the projects that have been put out there over the last year and then they pick our project as a great thing," said Gretchen Sehler, who, with her husband, Marc, helped create the Morning Gloria Trail with GOCO funds. "It just felt really good to be able to do it, because it's a trail many people had a part in doing. I think it's great for the community."

The city of Steamboat received $102,775 for the bike trail, part of a $161,575 total project cost. The trail, which connects Lupine Trail with the quarry at the top of Emerald Mountain, was completed last August after a long summer of work. However, the trail had been dreamt of by Sehler many years before, and it took a GOCO grant to make it happen.

"Marc and I, we worked six or seven days a week on it. It was a project we were married to," Sehler said. "I probably walked that corridor 15 years ago and worked hard to get it. In 2008 I got it on the city's master plan, and then it's just been sitting there waiting to get built, until we had the money to do it. Everything we've built up here, just about, was built by hand, and doing a four-and-a-half mile trail by hand isn't the best thing to do."

The other Starburst Award was given to the city for a three-part series of improvements made to the Yampa River. The improvements included work at the Fournier site west of town, Bear River Park, and Dr. Rich Weiss Park. Many of the improvements included bank stabilization and the creation of easier access points.

All told, the Yampa River projects, started in 2012, cost $408,043, with $300,000 coming from GOCO grants.

"We are the only state in the country where 100 percent of the proceeds goes to outdoor recreation projects," said Colorado Lottery's Dawna Callahan. "Over the last 32 years, we've given $2.8 billion back to the state. It's something we are very proud of here in our state."

Over those years, Routt County has received nearly $60 million from the Colorado Lottery, with more than $50 million coming from GOCO grants.