Colorado’s weather is warming.
And that means it’s time to enjoy the state’s bounty of outdoor activities.
Whether it’s hiking, biking, camping, fishing or simply relaxing in the solitude of an open space, there’s no shortage of ways to imbibe in the Colorado outdoor life.
Credit Colorado Lottery proceeds benefitting Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) for a sizable portion of that serenity.
GOCO funding cap reached in near-record time
Founded by a state constitutional amendment in 1992, GOCO is 100 percent funded by Colorado Lottery dollars.
And the CO Lottery recently announced it had already reached its annual GOCO funding cap. It’s another spring achievement — this time hitting the cap at the end of April.
Lottery spokesperson Kelly Tabor confirmed Thursday that it’s the second fastest the GOCO cap has been reached in their 30-year partnership. In 2019, Tabor said the cap was hit in mid-April.
Still, this year’s contribution is nothing short of a record with the Colorado Lottery giving GOCO $73,117,767.
That money, in turn, will then be used to fund grants for parks, recreation, wildlife, conservation and open space projects across the state.
“Because of the hard work and dedication of Colorado Lottery, and the lottery players we’re so grateful for, lottery has hit the GOCO cap,” Great Outdoors Colorado executive director Jackie Miller told PlayColorado. “And, as a result, we have the privilege to invest a significant amount of proceeds in Colorado’s great outdoors and make impacts that will last generations.”
Approximately 22-24 cents of every dollar spent on Colorado Lottery games is reinvested in state projects. The proceeds are distributed as such:
- 50 percent to GOCO up to the cap, which is adjusted annually based on the Denver metro area’s Consumer Price Index from the preceding year.
- 40 percent to the Conservation Trust Fund
- 10 percent to Colorado Parks and Wildlife
- Once the GOCO cap is reached, 50 percent of each additional Lottery proceed dollar spills over to the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) fund.
Lottery funds ‘more important than ever’
After taking a dip in 2020, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Colorado Lottery sales have been on the upswing in recent years. In 2021 and the first four months of 2022, the Lottery says its Scratch products and its in-state game, Colorado Lotto+, have fueled sales.
“We continue to utilize best practices in the industry to add products and maximize revenues for our proceeds partners,” Colorado lottery director Tom Seaver said in a news release. “As Colorado grows, it’s more important than ever to support and expand our outdoor spaces, as more people get outside and celebrate Colorado.There is no place better, and GOCO and CPW are incredible partners, preserving and enhancing our great outdoors.
“With increased inflation right now, it’s more important than ever to focus on revenues to ensure our waterfall funds receive their much-needed Lottery funding so more people than ever can enjoy our beautiful state.”
For Fiscal Year 2023, the GOCO cap will increase to $75,706,639. That 3.5 percent increase is the cap’s largest percentage jump since 2011, according to the Colorado Lottery.
30 years of GOCO
When GOCO was founded in 1992, its original cap was set at $35 million. And, as aforementioned, it’s adjusted annually for inflation.
GOCO is run by an independent board of directors which uses the lottery proceeds to fund its grant program. Those grants are awarded through a competitive process to local governments and lands trusts.
The GOCO board also makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
According to the GOCO website, the organization has committed more than $1.4 billion in lottery proceeds to fund 5,500-plus projects in all 64 Colorado counties since its inception.
All the while, as GOCO proudly states on its site, “without a single dollar coming from taxpayers’ pockets.”
Miller said there is no shortage of demand for grant money.
“Demand for GOCO’s resources is high with so much land and so many rivers to protect, wildlife to support, a desire for inviting places to get outside and recreate, and the need for Coloradans to steward and maintain our outdoor spaces,” she explained. “That said, Colorado is fortunate to have such a strong mechanism for funding its outdoors in GOCO, thanks to the Lottery and its players. GOCO is unique in the nation.”
Fishers Peak, Hanging Lake grants stand out
The list of GOCO-funded projects on its website is impressive.
Miller, though, said the organization is especially proud of its 2019 collaboration with CPW, the City of Trinidad, The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land in creating Fishers Peak State Park in Las Animas County.
The 19,200-acre expanse of land surrounding 9,633-foot Fishers Peak has been appraised at $25.45 million. The GOCO grant for this massive project totaled $17.3 million.
It officially opened as Colorado’s 42nd state park in January 2021.
GOCO also awarded a $2.28 million grant to help the immensely popular Hanging Lake Natural Area near Glenwood Springs prepare for its scheduled June 25 re-opening. The area has been been closed since last July when mudslides from the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar washed out bridges and portions of the hiking trail.
Hanging Lake’s economic value to Glenwood Springs exceeds $4.6 million annually, Miller said.
Miller also singled out the GOCO-created Generation Wild project, founded in 2015.
Generation Wild utilizes a grant program and an “integrated communications campaign” with the simple goal of getting “Colorado kids and their families outside more often,” according to the GOCO website.