Today, the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board awarded $9.2 million in grants at its meeting in Cortez.

The majority of the funding, totaling $8.5 million, was awarded through GOCO’s Connect Initiative. The program aims to increase access to the outdoors in Colorado communities by filling critical trail gaps, building new trails, and providing better walkable and bikeable access for youth and families. More than 80% of people in Colorado recreate on trails, and closing gaps and increasing connectivity has long been a top priority for the state’s residents.

The Board also awarded $498,550 in Planning grants to help local governments execute a wide range of outdoor recreation planning efforts. Planning grants help local governments gather public input and evaluate conditions to meet the outdoor recreation needs of Colorado communities.

An additional $300,000 in grants was awarded through GOCO’s Conservation Excellence program, which seeks to address pressing needs in today’s conservation community, including engaging local communities to support land conservation.

Funded projects are listed in alphabetical order by grant program.

Connect Initiative

Colorado Front Range/Poudre River Regional Trail Project, $2,010,000 grant to Larimer County 

Larimer County, in partnership with the City of Fort Collins, the Town of Timnath, and the Town of Windsor, will fill three remaining gaps of the Poudre River Regional Trail, which is part of the larger Colorado Front Range Trail (CFRT). The CFRT, originally proposed in 2003, is a vision to construct a continuous trail network along Front Range communities, ultimately running through Colorado from the Wyoming to New Mexico borders. The Poudre River Regional Trail (PRRT) is a 45-mile segment of the CFRT from Bellevue to Greeley and sees about 300,000 visitors annually. The County and partners will complete 4.7 miles of new trail, filling the last three missing gaps in the PRRT and accommodating an additional 100,000 people each year. 

Colorado Front Range Trail Project in Castle Rock, $2,008,000 grant to Town of Castle Rock

The Town of Castle Rock will complete five miles of the CFRT across three segments, providing connectivity from Denver to southern Douglas County. Segments will add mileage to the existing East Plum Creek and McMurdo Gulch trails, and will provide connections to Cherry Creek State Park and Greenland Ranch. This project will complete a major CFRT milestone of connecting Denver and Colorado Springs and will fill all remaining trail gaps in Castle Rock. 

High Plains Trail/Cherry Creek Regional Trail Connection Project, $2,005,000 grant to Arapahoe County

This grant will help Arapahoe County fund the High Plains Trail’s western expansion and connection with the Cherry Creek Regional Trail, filling a major trail gap in the Denver metro area’s paved trail system. Seven miles of the High Plains Trail currently run along E-470, but the existing trail is relatively isolated from the rest of the metro trail network. The new one-mile connection will divert away from the highway and cross through what will be the Kings Point and Kings Point South housing developments in Aurora along the Arapahoe and Douglas County line. It will connect with Cherry Creek Regional Trail and Centennial Trail at Norton Farms Open Space. 

Palisade Plunge Phase II Construction, $1,238,500 grant to Mesa County

Mesa County will use its Connect Initiative grant for the second and final phase of the Palisade Plunge trail. The completed Plunge trail will be 33.8 miles long, descending 6,000 feet from the top of Grand Mesa to the Colorado River in Palisade. While it is designed with mountain bikers in mind, the trail will be bi-directional and suitable for hiking and other forms of non-motorized recreation. It will also link users to the existing Colorado Riverfront Trail, nearby Powderhorn Mountain Resort, the Lunch Loop Trail Network, bike trails in Fruita, and Colorado National Monument. Construction of the first phase of the trail began earlier this year, and a grand opening is slated for October 2020 after the second phase is complete.

Pueblo Arkansas River Levee Trail Project, $1,238,500 grant to City of Pueblo

In Pueblo, a new 2.4-mile segment of trail will be built over the Arkansas River Levee and connect to the popular Arkansas River Trail and surrounding neighborhoods. The Levee Trail will run along the north side of the Arkansas River, parallel to the Arkansas River Trail along the river’s south bank. The trail will connect users to surrounding residential areas, including Pueblo’s West Side and Grove neighborhoods, creating new recreation access for residents. It will also link to the GOCO-supported Runyon Sports Complex, a popular recreation amenity on Pueblo’s southeastern side. 


Central City Trails Master Plan, $47,800 grant to Central City

Central City will create a master plan for a trail network as well as other recreation amenities. Abundant outdoor recreation opportunities currently exist on public lands near Central City, but within the city limits, residents currently hike and bike in informal, undesignated areas, posing a safety risk. Nearby Black Hawk has a trail network around Maryland Mountain, and the established Peaks to Plains Trail is close by. Linking Central City to these networks would greatly enhance recreation opportunities for residents and visitors. Goals of the project will be to connect to those surrounding trail networks outside the city limits and to develop a plan for a trail network linking Central City’s downtown area to Chase River Gulch. 

City of La Junta Parks, Recreation, and Trails Master Plan, $75,000 grant to City of La Junta

La Junta will create a long-term master plan for developing and managing its recreational programs, services, and facilities. Recent recreation projects have shown a need for a longer-term, more comprehensive plan to address access and equity, to maintain existing facilities, and to plan for future needs. Currently, a new $1.2 million fitness facility is being constructed, and the City boasts several playgrounds, parks, a municipal pool and golf course, several trails, and other amenities to maintain over time. 

Fisher’s Peak Ranch Master Plan, $75,000 grant to City of Trinidad

Trinidad will develop a master plan for future recreation and conservation efforts on the property that is home to Fisher’s Peak. Earlier this year, GOCO contributed $7.5 million to the purchase of the ranch by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and The Trust for Public Land (TPL) after it was held in private ownership for more than 100 years. While there will be no public access on the property until 2020 or 2021, a plan to manage the land and its future visitors is critical to the project’s long-term success. The 19,200-acre property is adjacent to two State Wildlife Areas managed by Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) as well as Sugarite Canyon State Park in New Mexico. New public access will connect visitors to more than 55 square miles of connected public land. 

Fountain Creek Corridor Greenway Master Plan, $75,000 grant to Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District

Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District will create a master plan proposing a 46-mile greenway trail connecting Colorado Springs and Pueblo. The trail would be part of the larger Colorado Front Range Trail (CFRT). The CFRT, originally proposed in 2003, is a vision to construct a continuous trail network along Front Range communities, ultimately running through Colorado from the Wyoming to New Mexico borders. The master plan will establish a detailed alignment for the trail, which would begin at the southern city line in Colorado Springs and end at the Arkansas River in Pueblo. 

Grand Junction Parks and Open Space Master Plan, $56,250 grant to City of Grand Junction

The City will develop a master plan for the future of parks, recreation, and open space in Grand Junction. Its current parks master plan was last updated in 2001, and much of the work outlined in that plan has since been completed. Grand Junction parks are highly utilized by the city’s residents and by those in surrounding communities. Since the 2001 plan, the city’s population has increased by nine percent, and new housing developments suggest growth will continue. In addition, rented hours of park amenities has increased by 112 percent since 2014.

Ignite Interest in Natural Resources Careers, $75,000 grant to Town of Oak Creek, in partnership with Colorado Youth Corps Association (CYCA) and Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education (CAEE)

CAEE and CYCA will create a plan to make a Careers in Natural Resources guide for high school students, serving as a complement to “A How-To Guide for Pursuing a Career in Natural Resources,” which was first published by the partnering organizations in 2014 and is designed for older emerging professionals. With Colorado’s growing and diverse population, the need for the next generation of outdoor professionals is clear. In addition, job prospects for environmental careers are strong, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting faster-than-average employment growth for several outdoor- and natural resource-focused fields. 

Kendall Mountain Recreation Area Master Plan, $37,500 grant to Town of Silverton

Silverton will develop a master recreation plan for Kendall Mountain Recreation Area (KMRA), a town-owned park and ski hill. KMRA provides some of the most affordable skiing in Colorado, and all Silverton students receive free season passes. By expanding its ski terrain, Silverton could attract more ski tourism and offer new, year-round recreation opportunities, drawing in more summer visitors. 

Parks, Recreation, and Trails Master Plan, $57,000 grant to Town of Paonia

Paonia will create a long-term master plan for improving the Town’s parks, enhancing recreation, and filling trail gaps. Paonia’s last master plan was completed in 1996, and since then, new recreation opportunities have been identified. Paonia offers several parks and recreation facilities but aims to accommodate a growing number of people relocating to the area. As part of the planning process, the Town will begin to envision and plan for potential future amenities, including bike trails or a recreation center. 

Conservation Excellence

Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) and Yampa Valley Land Trust Merger, $50,000 grant to CCALT

CCALT and Yampa Valley Land Trust are in the process of merging to enhance conservation in northwest Colorado communities. GOCO funding will help CCALT formulate new strategies for stakeholder engagement and staff and board integration post-merger. Additionally, the merger will allow CCALT to pilot new community conservation strategies, particularly in resort communities, to reduce increasing conflicts between agricultural and recreational interests.

Land Trust Alliance: Colorado Advancing Conservation Excellence Initiative, $100,000 grant to Colorado Open Lands

The GOCO Board awarded a $100,000 grant to Colorado Open Lands (COL), which will serve as a fiscal sponsor for this award to the Land Trust Alliance (the Alliance) to support the Colorado Advancing Conservation Excellence (ACE) Initiative. Colorado’s land trusts play a vital role in protecting and stewarding privately owned open lands. As of 2015, they held permanent conservation easements on, or otherwise protected, three million acres of land and were conserving approximately 100,000 new acres per year. The state’s nonprofit land trusts are responsible for the stewardship of nearly 80 percent of private land conserved in Colorado.

The ACE Initiative builds on the work of the Conservation Futures Project (CFP), a collaborative effort launched in 2017 to envision a new statewide coalition to support the land trust community as it evolves to meet current and future conservation challenges. As a result of CFP, a new, statewide association called Keep It Colorado unites land trust community members around a shared goal of increasing their capacity, impact, and long-term sustainability. Modeled similarly to other Alliance programs, the ACE Initiative will provide land trust members of Keep It Colorado and the Alliance with capacity-building services and other resources based on specific needs.

Eastern Slope & Plains Wildlife Prioritization Study, $54,000 grant to Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW)

In 2019, CPW and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) completed the Western Slope Wildlife Prioritization Study (WSWPS), providing an assessment of wildlife conflicts on roads in the Western Slope to guide transportation planning and project development. The research team then evaluated the feasibility of adapting the WSWPS to the Eastern Slope and Plains. Building on learnings from WSWPS, the Eastern Slope and Plains Wildlife Prioritization Study (ES&PWPS) will evaluate strategic and cost-effective mitigation methods, including wildlife crossing structures, fencing, and other strategies, and propose a plan to ensure that CPW and CDOT are able to maximize benefits for both people and wildlife. 

Elevate the Peak: Community Visioning Around Iconic Pikes Peak, $96,000 grant to Palmer Land Trust

For Colorado Springs and surrounding communities, Pikes Peak is an iconic local identifier. GOCO funding will help Palmer Land Trust develop a collective vision to leverage Pikes Peak as a place to be inspired and sustained, a place to play, and a place to support the local community’s quality of life into the future, as the area population continues to rise. This project builds on Palmer Land Trust’s successful Generation Leadership Project, funded in part with a GOCO conservation excellence grant awarded in 2017. That project recognized the importance of community in effective land conservation efforts and focused on how to enhance the Colorado Springs community’s engagement in conservation