Diane Metzger, GOCO Communications Manager

DENVER – Today, the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) board awarded $7,057,688 in grants through three of its base programs: planning and capacity, community impact, and land acquisition. This round of grants will help partners complete 16 community-driven outdoors projects impacting 39 of Colorado’s 64 counties.

The projects will: 

  • Protect 662 acres of land, including the new, 120-acre Avenger Open Space in Teller County.
  • Hire five new staff members to support stewardship, partnership, and community engagement.
  • Help two land trusts team up to conserve critical lands and water in the South Platte River Basin.
  • Build or enhance six parks and recreation facilities expanding close-to-home outdoor access.
  • Establish the first-ever, Colorado-based, Native-led nonprofit land trust.

Planning and Capacity

GOCO’s Planning and Capacity program invests in projects that address opportunities, explore issues, engage communities, and examine trends in the outdoors.

Charting a New Course for Water Smart Land Conservation, $298,000 to Colorado Open Lands

The South Platte River Basin is home to some of Colorado’s most productive farmland and largest farm economies, while being one of the state’s fastest-growing counties with the most water rights in the state. Colorado Open Lands (COL) will partner with Colorado West Land Trust to learn from each other’s water-focused work to help conserve critical lands in this region where land conversion is happening rapidly and conservation easements are around four times more expensive. COL will also bring together partners representing varied interests in the South Platte River Basin, including municipal water developers, water conservancy districts, those interested in farmland, and the Colorado Water Trust. They will explore new strategies and financing tools to encourage collaborative investments in farmland and water rights that meet multiple uses and keep the economy and ecology of the region intact.

Climate Resiliency and Watershed Health in the Upper Arkansas, $261,500 to Central Colorado Conservancy

Funding will help Central Colorado Conservancy (CCC) hire a stewardship program manager and a watershed partnership coordinator. The two will assist with priority conservation projects in the upper Arkansas River Watershed in Central Colorado. This project will help CCC expand collaborative conservation work across multiple counties and public and private lands to protect wildlife, restore streams, and enhance the agricultural use of the area. The stewardship program manager will oversee the expansion of CCC’s program augmenting the productivity of working lands and oversee the use of improved technology to create stewardship plans on conserved properties. The watershed coordinator will lead a partnership of conservation organizations, agricultural producers, and public entities to identify and implement critical infrastructure, land protection, and stream restoration projects.

Accelerating and Expanding Conservation Impact in Pueblo County, $257,675 to Palmer Land Conservancy

The GOCO grant will help Palmer Land Conservancy hire a community engagement manager to support the land trust’s commitment to community-driven conservation. This staff member will work out of Palmer’s Pueblo office, engaging in initiatives related to healthy food systems, agricultural heritage, and outdoor recreation. They will also support community engagement campaigns, including the release of Palmer’s groundbreaking environmental documentary, MIRASOL, Looking at the Sun, which challenges viewers to think about land and water use in the West through an intimate portrait of Pueblo's farming community. The new position is part of Palmer’s broader strategy to increase the pace, relevance, and diversity of conservation impact in Southern Colorado and to grow its organizational capacity by 50% over the next two years.

Watershed Stewards Program Manager, $222,610.50 to Lake County

Lake County will use its GOCO grant to partner with local water education and stewardship nonprofit, Blue Elements. This funding will support a three-year program manager position to develop and implement an AmeriCorps watershed stewards program, through which 30 AmeriCorps members will increase capacity in at least 20 water-related organizations in Lake County and adjacent communities. The Watershed Stewards program will focus on cultivating watershed stewardship and connecting communities with the power of their water resources through education and outreach. This program focuses efforts on career pathways and inclusive representation in the natural resources to increase equity within the water and stewardship fields in the state, a priority outlined in the Colorado Water Plan. Recruitment will focus on traditionally underrepresented groups in Lake County.

Colorado Native Land Trust Research and Planning Project, $205,963 to First Nations Development Institute

Funding will help First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) spearhead a research and planning project to establish the first Colorado-based, Native-led, nonprofit land trust. The project aims to fill a critical gap in Native land connections by creating an entity that will tap into conservation funding, hold conservation easements, and support tribes' control of and access to ancestral lands. In developing the Colorado Native Land Trust, First Nations will leverage its experience in establishing Native grantmaking programs and aim to create a pilot for potential Native-led land trusts nationally. Working within its Stewarding Native Lands program, First Nations will conduct comprehensive research and planning, consulting a small advisory group and collaborating with People of the Sacred Land, a Colorado-based nonprofit working to uncover the truth about American Indian history across the state.

Recreation Master Plan, $155,000 to the City of Lamar

Funding will help the City of Lamar develop a multi-year recreation master plan informed and guided by the local community. The City has completed its previous recreation master plan and is ready for the next iteration to continue and further recreation development. The City will hire a planning consultant to conduct activities and events in the next 14-24 months to gather input from its diverse community members. Data captured during this time will guide the plan that will provide recreation programming and implementation recommendations for the next 5-10 years. The City and its consultant will partner with paid college and high school student interns and youth-serving organizations and host multiple gatherings for further community participation in the process.

Enabling More Conservation and Greater Community Engagement in Southern Colorado, $100,000 to Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust

Funding will help Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) hire a new regionally located staff member to manage its newly opened office in Del Norte. The position will help enhance connections and relationships with communities, partners, and landowners in the San Luis Valley and surrounding regions of Southern Colorado. The staff member will also support the organization’s existing and future conservation services and easements in the region. CCALT’s Agricultural Resiliency Fund will assist landowners in further leveraging the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program and other resources to advance restoration and enhancement projects and outcomes throughout Southern Colorado. In addition, CCALT will be better positioned to become actively involved in water issues and other discussions important to Southern Colorado communities.

Community Impact

GOCO’s Community Impact program develops and revitalizes parks, trails, school yards, fairgrounds, environmental education facilities, and other outdoor projects that enhance a community’s quality of life and access to the outdoors. Projects include:

Silt's Community Park Renovation Project, $900,000 to the Town of Silt

Funding will help the Town of Silt renovate its popular 1.7-acre neighborhood park. Originally built in 1956, Community Park is located near several residences, a nearby elementary school, and local businesses. The park is an important community asset but lacks modern amenities such as accessible playground equipment, restrooms, walking paths, and shade structures. GOCO funding will support upgrades to improve the recreational facilities, creating more equitable access to the outdoors and supporting the local economy. This park is one aspect of the Town's broader efforts to enhance its downtown area for residents and visitors.

Cheraw Community Complex, $883,700 to the Town of Cheraw

Funding will help the Town of Cheraw develop the Cheraw Community Complex over the next two years. The complex will create the town’s only park, providing multi-generational recreation opportunities and a central gathering space for the local community and those from the surrounding region. It will be located in the center of town and feature a pavilion, playground, walking paths, and a multipurpose  field. The project is a critical piece of implementing Cheraw's comprehensive community development plan to enhance quality of life, increase access to outdoor recreation, and retain and attract residents. The community demonstrated incredible support for the community complex, submitting a letter with over 80 signatures pledging donations of time, volunteer hours, services, and more.

Haymaker Recreation Hub Enhancement Project, $730,000 to the Town of Eagle

With this funding, the Town of Eagle and the Mountain Recreation Metropolitan District will develop four major amenities at the growing Haymaker Recreation Hub: an outdoor pool that will bring back lifesaving learn-to-swim lessons, a bicycle motocross (BMX) track designed for all ability levels, a bike park, and the completion of the final design for Eagle’s first skatepark. These four amenities are top priorities in the community-centered recreation plan developed by surrounding residents, towns, and more than 50 partner organizations. The Hub will provide additional recreation opportunities to meet the demands of a rapidly growing population. The newly constructed pool will replace the existing facility that closed in 2021 due to soil issues and provide opportunities for community gatherings and swim programs.

The Rico Town Park and Outdoor Recreation Hub Project, $594,990 to the Town of Rico

Funding will help the Town of Rico revitalize a neglected property along the Dolores River at the bottom of Depot Hill at the Rio South Grande Southern Railroad trailhead. The community recreation space features a bicycle pump track, a covered ice rink, a summer picnic structure, tables, riverside benches, and a skatepark. In addition, the project will upgrade and expand outdated equipment in the existing playground to provide a better experience for kids, from pre-kindergarten to pre-teen ages. This project builds on the momentum of several years of community engagement, which surfaced a shared vision to rebuild community recreation spaces and enhance neglected riverside property into resources for locals and visitors alike. The site will double the park space in the community. More than 50 formal and informal meetings with residents and surveys helped the Town prioritize amenities.

Making Nature Universally Accessible Through a New Nature Center at Bluff Lake, $500,000 to the City and County of Denver and Bluff Lake Nature Center

With this grant, Bluff Lake Nature Center and the City and County of Denver will re-envision the 123-acre outdoor classroom and wildlife refuge at Bluff Lake Nature Center in northeast Denver. Renovations will include the construction of a new community education center and administrative hub, public bathrooms, and an enhanced refuge entryway. This project tackles structural limitations and accessibility challenges at the site to enhance the center’s ability to host community programs and visitors of all abilities. Project planning and community engagement exposed challenges that users with limited physical ability experience at the site, which prompted the design of a new universally accessible entry and pathway that will connect visitors from the road-level education center down to the lower-level trails and green space at the site.

The Green at 38th in Wheat Ridge, $500,000 to the City of Wheat Ridge

Funding will help the City of Wheat Ridge transform the area between Stevens Elementary and 38th Avenue into a vibrant community space known as The Green at 38th. Community meetings, surveys, and partnerships with local businesses, youth, and families helped the City identify desired features for the outdoor event and gathering space, including seating and play structures. This project began in 2018 following resident feedback calling for a flexible and safe gathering space and was prioritized through Wheat Ridge's comprehensive plan and corridor development initiatives. Now in its final design phase, the park will host city-wide events, foster economic activity, enhance neighborhood connections, and provide accessible outdoor recreation. The City’s collaborative approach and partnership with Jefferson County Public Schools for this project aims to address the diverse needs of Wheat Ridge residents. 

Land Acquisition

GOCO’s Land Acquisition program supports urban and rural landscape, waterway, and habitat protection priorities and improves access to the outdoors.

Las Animas-Purgatoire River Project, $650,000 to Southern Plains Land Trust

Funding will help Southern Plains Land Trust permanently protect a 458-acre property near the City of Las Animas with a conservation easement. Following the acquisition, the easement will be managed by the land trust Colorado Open Lands. Called the River Property, it includes one mile of prime riverfront along the regionally important Purgatoire River. The river and its forests provide habitat for birds, mammals, and other wildlife. The property also contains mature cottonwood riparian forests, high-quality wetlands, and a small black-tailed prairie dog colony. The wetlands are freshwater ponds that stay full throughout the year, which support native fish and other aquatic wildlife and represent a critical resource for both migratory and resident waterfowl and passerine birds. The property also includes agricultural resources, including hay fields irrigated with 20 shares of leased water.

City of Woodland Park Avenger Open Space, $523,250 to the City of Woodland Park

Funding will help the City of Woodland Park purchase 120 acres to create Avenger Open Space and formalize a system of informal, social trails to build a more sustainable local trail system. The effort will preserve critical natural areas under threat of commercial development, maintain the land's ecological health, and ensure continued public recreation access. The comprehensive trail system will also connect to the adjacent Paradise Open Space and, in the future, may formalize trails into the surrounding National Forest. Palmer Land Conservancy will hold the conservation easement, ensuring this valuable open space and its natural resources continue to benefit future generations.

Arkansas River Community Preserve - Phase 4 Acquisition, $275,000 to Central Colorado Conservancy

Funding will help CCC, in partnership with Colorado Open Lands and Lake County, acquire seven parcels of land, totaling nearly 84 acres, to expand the Arkansas River Community Preserve to over 354 acres. The project will protect a critical migration corridor for bighorn sheep, elk, deer, and other wildlife, and enhance public access to over three miles of the Arkansas River. Recreation is a key focus of Lake County as it works to diversify its mining-based economy and expand equitable outdoor access for the community. The Preserve links a patchwork of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, United States Forest Service, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, providing better connectivity for recreationalists and wildlife.

Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers, and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created when voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 5,700 projects in all 64 counties of Colorado without any tax dollar support. Visit for more information.