Colorado trail projects get biggest funding boost to date from lottery revenue

You may not have won the lottery, but the proceeds from the tickets help fund local outdoor projects, including recent multi-million dollar grants.
Posted at 5:45 PM, Mar 27, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-28 09:23:15-04

DENVER — If your lottery ticket wasn't a winner Tuesday night, you're certainly not alone. On the bright side, the money spent on all of the losing tickets in the state doesn't go to waste.

Recently, $117 million of outdoor grants were approved by Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO).

"All of them are our most significant investments to date in trails," said Chris Yuan-Farrel, director of programs for GOCO.

Those investments are funded in part by all of those lottery tickets, whether they win — or in most cases — lose.

"GOCO is funded by a portion of the Colorado lottery proceeds. We receive up to 50% of the proceeds directly. We're capped constitutionally, we're capped at roughly $78 million a year now," said Yuan-Farrel. "Lottery proceeds is our only revenue source, and we reinvest it in parks, trails, open space, and wildlife habitat across the state."

GOCO's estimated 2023 budget shows it received $74,192,506 in lottery proceeds and gave out $61,484,615 in grants that same year.

This month, Jefferson County was granted $7 million to help build a new section of the Peaks to Plains Trail. Wheat Ridge received $500,000 for a new outdoor community gathering space, and Colorado Open Lands received $298,000 to help conserve the South Platte River Basin.

Denver County also received $298,000 for South Platte River Basin conservation, as well as a $500,000 grant to renovate the Bluff Lake Nature Center.

The High Line Canal Conservancy received a $7 million grant for long-awaited improvements to a 28-mile stretch of the trail in the northeast portion through Arapahoe County and Aurora.

"It travels 71 miles and includes 860 acres of open space, which is larger than Central Park in New York City," said Harriet LaMair, CEO of the High Line Canal Conservancy.

The section of the trail that runs through south Denver and Cherry Hills is a haven for runners, horse riders and dog owners. The tree canopy is lush and the gravel trail is well maintained. But as the trail makes its way northeast into Aurora, the changes are obvious.

Colorado trail projects get biggest funding boost to date from lottery revenue

"The neighborhoods out here were developed for lower-income housing. So the difference is pretty dramatic. Here, you see some multifamily housing. Down in the southern suburbs, it's primarily single-family homes, abutting the High Line Canal, and many of them from affluent communities," said LaMair.

LaMair said that's led some parts of the canal seeing high investments, and others that simply haven't.

Many neighbors who live near the High Line in that area told Denver7 that the area is an eye sore, often littered with trash and in need of improvements.

"In Aurora, in communities with lower incomes, there's 40% less access to open space. So we have a problem," said LaMair.

A problem that's on its way to a solution with the grant from GOCO and some private-public partnerships.

"There are 228,000 people that live along the High Line Canal in these sections, and they will have access to quality open space as a result of this work," said LaMair. "There'll be a nature trail next to the canal, where kids can wander and look at little signage about what they might find there. There will be fitness areas, there'll be shade structures, seating, signage."

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