The results are in for the Colorado Lottery 2023 Starburst Awards.
The Starburst Awards recognize community and conservation projects across the state that use Lottery dollars.
For fiscal year 2023, the Lottery selected eight projects based on multiple criteria, including creativity, and economic and social impacts in the community and the state. Those projects accounted for more than $4 million in Lottery funds, which improved areas such as:
- Open spaces
- Outdoor education
Colorado Lottery Starburst Awards represent multiple organizations
Unlike other states which primarily use Lottery funds for education, Colorado puts its money into the outdoors, wholly funding Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO). It also contributes to the Conservation Trust Fund (CTF), Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), and the Outdoor Equity Fund, which CPW manages.
The eight winners come from one or more of these agencies, showing that Lottery funds are used effectively in all areas.
In the Lottery’s 40-year history, it has raised over $4 billion for outdoor efforts. Depending on the year, The Lottery uses between 22.8 and 25 cents of every dollar spent on the outdoors. About 63 cents of every dollar goes back to players as prizes.
The Starburst Awards began in 1992 to spotlight the greatest accomplishments in outdoors preservation each year. Colorado Lottery Director Tom Seaver praised those who work to improve Colorado.
“The Lottery’s conservation efforts are only made possible through the incredible work of its partners that distribute Lottery revenue to meaningful projects throughout the state. To see Lottery dollars at work around the state to protect, support, expand open space, animal habitats and recreational opportunities is so gratifying. This year’s Starburst winners showcase the types of projects that help our state be the best state in the country.”
And the winners are …
Project: Get Outdoors and Play Multisport Days
Organization (grant): OEF ($45,000)
The Westminster-headquartered nonprofit creates outdoor sports opportunities for children and adults, including veterans with disabilities and their families, regardless of location, needs, or financial status. The grant money went to adaptive cycling, climbing, kayaking, and paddle boarding equipment.
City of Englewood
Project: Pirates Cove Play Structure Refurbish
Organization (grant): CTF ($207,478)
The Pirates Cove water park sees more than 100,000 annual visitors. Its 20-year-old infrastructure received upgrades such as a new double slide, new paint jobs, and multiple other features like portal openings, a treasure chest, and cannons.
City of Wheat Ridge
Project: Prospect Park
Organization (grant): GOCO and CTF ($1,237,970)
As the gateway to the regional Clear Creek Trail and Wheat Ridge Greenbelt, around 45,000 people visit Prospect Park annually. The park renovation creates new recreational activities such as pickleball courts, replaces the picnic pavilion, and improves roads and walkways around the park.
Crawford State Park
Project: Clear Fork Campground Renovation
Organization (grant): CPW and GOCO
Crawford State Park received new campsites with full RV hookups, new shade shelters, picnic tables, and improved ADA access. Its location, east of Black Canyon National Park, provides access to fishing, waterskiing, swimming, and all the other outdoor activities the western slope provides.
Environmental Learning for Kids
Project: ELK Education Center
Organization (grant): GOCO ($425,000)
A part of the Montbello Open Space Park, ELK Education Center is the product of a partnership between Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK), The Trust for Public Land, and Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR). The new 7,000-square-foot center acts as a home for ELK’s programs and operations, and the overall space consists of 4.5 acres of green space that is open to the public.
Montrose Recreation District
Project: Holly Park Renovation
Organization (grant): GOCO ($214,348)
The City of Montrose built a new playground and multi-purpose field, enhanced its handball courts, and re-painted basketball courts colorfully last year. Further enhancements included additional parking, lighting, irrigation, and baseball field expansions, all thanks to its $214K Local Park and Outdoor Recreation (LPOR) grant from GOCO.
The Cycle Effect
Project: Girls Mountain Bike Program
Organization (grant): OEF ($25,000)
This program was created to make mountain biking accessible, affordable, and inclusive, especially for women of color. The Cycle Effect was founded to give all young women equal access to the outdoors, especially mountain biking, to build stronger communities and create better futures.
Town of Estes Park
Project: Thumb Open Space
Organization (grant): GOCO ($350,000)
The Thumb Open Space is a new 65-acre joint project between the Town of Estes Park and Estes Valley Land Trust (EVLT). Funds went to securing the land, and future conservation efforts will focus on enhancing the space’s facilities, signage, and patrolling for trails and rock climbing areas, including the Thumb and Needle.
Education has not been forgotten
Colorado may focus first on the outdoors with its Lottery proceeds, but education will still receive a pretty penny from the 2022-23 fiscal year.
The Colorado Lottery reached its GOCO funding cap on March 20, the earliest in state history. GOCO receives half of all Lottery proceeds up to a limit based on the previous year’s revenue.
Now that that cap has been met, GOCO’s 50% share will go to three more funds:
- BEST (Building Excellent Schools Today) will receive half of the remaining revenue.
- The other half will go to CPW’s two cash funds, the Wildlife Cash Fund and the Parks and Outdoor Recreation cash fund. Each will receive 25%.
BEST received $9.3 million from the Lottery during the last fiscal year. With three-plus months to capitalize on in FY 2023, that number will likely surpass $10 million.