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News: Features & Opinions Archive (2009)

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Date: April 2009

Great Outdoors Colorado: Grant Funding Opportunities

The largest funding source for the preservation of open space in Colorado is the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Trust Fund. Created in 1992 by a citizen initiative, the GOCO Colorado initiative amended the Colorado Constitution to redirect a portion of lottery proceeds to the GOCO Trust Fund for projects that preserve, protect and enhance Colorado’s wildlife, parks and open space. The amendment also created the GOCO Board overseas distribution of the funds.

GOCO receives only a portion of the lottery revenues. The Colorado Conservation Trust Fund and the Colorado Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation are allocated 50% of the proceeds with GOCO receiving the remaining revenues up to an annual cap that varies with inflation. In Fiscal Year 2007-2008 the GOCO cap was $53.1 million. Revenues in excess of the cap, $8.2 million, were was contributed to the School Capital Construction Assistance Fund, created by voters in 2000 with the passage of the Lottery’s Powerball game.

The Colorado Constitution requires GOCO to allocate its proceeds equally to four areas. These four areas of funding include: Colorado State Parks; Local Government; Colorado Division of Wildlife; and Open Space. Per the Colorado Constitution, these four areas are defined as:

1. "Investments in the wildlife resources of Colorado through the Colorado Division of Wildlife, including the protection and restoration of crucial wildlife habitats, appropriate programs for maintaining Colorado’s diverse wildlife heritage, wildlife watching, and education programs about wildlife and wildlife environment."

2. "Investments in the outdoor recreation resources of Colorado through the Colorado Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, including the State Parks system, trails, public information and environmental education resources, and water the recreational facilities."

3. "Competitive grants to the Colorado Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation and Wildlife, and to counties, municipalities, or other political subdivisions of the state, or non-profit land conservation organizations, to identify, acquire, and manage open space and natural areas of statewide significance."

4. "Competitive matching grants to local governments or other entities that are eligible for distributions from the Conse3rvation Trust Fund, to acquire, develop or manage open lands and parks."

In Fiscal Year 2007-2008, the GOCO Board awarded $83.7 million for 141 projects that preserved public lands, provided active play facilities, protected wildlife habitat, built trails and improved and expanded the Colorado State Park system.

Specific grants funded through COGO of importance to open space programs include:

Legacy Grants

Legacy grants fund large projects of statewide or regional significance and typically draw funding from more than one of GOCO’s funding purposes. These grants typically are very large, multi-jurisdictional and multi- year projects. An example of the is the acquisition of the 21,000 acre Greenland Ranch in Douglas County where Douglas County could not afford to preserve this property by itself but due to the statewide significance was able to draw on all four of the identified GOCO funding sources. These grants are offered periodically as GOCO’s financial position allows. Jefferson County received a legacy grant to assist in acquisitions in Clear Creek Canyon.

Local Government Park, Outdoor Recreation and Environmental Education Facility Grants

These grants are available to cities, counties, and park and recreation districts on a competitive basis for land acquisition, expand and improve local parks, outdoor recreation facilities and environmental education facilities. These grants are offered twice a year.

Open Space Grants

Open space grants fund the preservation on lands as passive open space through fee simple purchase of lands or the purchase of development rights, the purchase of conservation easements or a combination of both these techniques. These funds are available on a competitive basis to cities, counties, special districts, land trusts, the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Colorado State Parks. These grants are offered twice a year.

Trails Grants

Grant funding for the planning and design, construction and maintenance of pedestrian, horse and bicycle trails are available for any local government. These grants are offered once a year through the Colorado State Trails Program.

Planning Grants

GOCO provides grants to local governments, land trusts, the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Colorado State Parks. These monies may be used for creating large community wide master plans or for meeting smaller planning needs for the planning and management of park or open space property.

Program Funding Through December 2008 Funding includes all county and municipal allocations:

  Adams County   $17,563,070
  Arapahoe County   $10,974,022
  Boulder County   $14,117,557
  Broomfield County   $544,025
  Denver County   $15,016,447
  Douglas County   $34,492,904
  Jefferson County   $24,908,053
  Multi-County   $3,130,337
  Multi-County   $3,890,043
  Multi-County   $18,250,113
  Multi-County   $2,681,762
  Multi-County   $5,384,764
  Multi-County   $3,285,575

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