The Conservation Trust Fund, which receives 40% of lottery proceeds, distributes money to counties, cities, towns and outdoor recreation special districts all across Colorado on a per-capita basis. The money is used to acquire and maintain conservation sites, and to also to make capital improvements to parks and open spaces.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife gets another 10% of lottery money for trail construction and maintenance, along with land and equipment purchases and equipment maintenance.
Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) gets up to 50% of the lottery funds, of which half goes into an investment plan for CPW. The remaining half is distributed by way of competitive grant programs for parks, trails, wildlife and open spaces each year. Any dollars for GOCO in excess of a funding cap of $32 million, adjusted for inflation, goes to public school construction in the state.
In 2016, the CTF distributed almost $57 million, CPW directly got a little over $14 million, GOCO received more than $63 million, and public schools got about $8 million.
It's no secret that many parks departments around the state would hardly be able to function without CTF and GOCO funds. Locally, both the Colorado Springs and El Paso County Parks Departments have historically relied heavily on CTF funds to take care of basic needs. And, GOCO money was largely responsible for the acquisition of what is now Red Rock Canyon Open Space and a more recent land acquisition that greatly expanded the size of Ute Valley Park. Next time you're on a trail or visit a park, look for the GOCO emblem indicating that lottery money was used there, you'll see a lot of them.
Sponsored by Senators Leroy Garcia and Jerry Sonnenberg, the bill would repeal the scheduled July 1, 2024 termination of the lottery division, effectively funding parks, open spaces and trails perpetually for another 25 years.
In a state where outdoor recreation reigns supreme, the continuation of the lottery division and these funds is essential to maintaining our way of life. As of February 14th, the bill had passed through the Senate appropriations committee with a 6-1 vote, with Senator Lambert of El Paso County being the lone vote against.
For more information, visit keepitco.org.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include an amendment to SB18-66 that would secure the Lottery Division funding for another 25 years.
Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for more than 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: firstname.lastname@example.org.