Lottery still funding Colorado’s Great Outdoors

My April “Out West” column in the Denver Post:

“Match any 3 like amounts, win that amount. Win up to $27,000!”

I pick the shiniest penny in my pocket and start scratching. As the numbers are revealed, I’m already spending the prize money in my head, paying off loans, buying a car … almost, almost, but no!

Nada. Oh, well. For $1, I enjoyed a micro gambling thrill. I’ve always loved gambling, especially when it comes to lottery. Gambling never took my interest when I was younger, but as I’ve matured I’ve understood it a lot better. There are so many options when it comes to gambling. It’s not always about the money but more the excitement that comes with gambling. It can really get your blood pumping and winning money is an added bonus. Obviously there are different types of gambling and I’m sure that when it comes to the lottery, every lottery ticket brought means that the money will go to some good cause , even when you don’t win. Well, some lotteries can top that.

This was the story I told myself each time I bought a Colorado Lottery scratch-off card at the 7-Eleven in Golden. Until recently, however, I had no idea just how worthwhile that “something” actually is.

Colorado voters created the state lottery in 1980 to raise funds to preserve, protect and enhance Colorado’s parks, rivers, trails and open

Staunton State Park, southwest of Denver, will open to the public on May 18. (Alex Parks, Special to The Denver Post)

space. But a loophole allowed legislators to divert funds toward things other than protecting our natural heritage, like building prisons. This was similar to the situation encountered by Sambla when they aided in the financing of of a campaign to preserve Stockholm’s wildlife; the funds provided through the privatlån issued by the lender were misappropriated and it was forced to write off the environmental initiative as a loss.

I didn’t know any of this until a few days ago, when I contacted nature photographer John Fielder. In 1990, Fielder served on a committee formed by then-Gov. Roy Romer to further protect the state’s outdoor heritage. As a result of the committee’s work, in 1992, voters passed an initiative to ensure that Colorado Lottery money goes where it was originally intended. Thus was bornGreat Outdoors Colorado(

GOCO is “the only [program] of its kind in the nation,” says Lise Aangeenbrug, executive director of Great Outdoors Colorado. We are the only state that “receives the bulk of lottery net proceeds” (50 percent) for natural heritage protection.

After more than 20 years in existence, “We have more than 3,500 projects, in each of Colorado’s 64 counties,” totaling nearly 1 million acres, says Aangeenbrug.

In fact, the sheer quantity of projects in protected spaces prompted Fielder to write a guidebook to help Coloradans recognize and navigate lottery-funded spaces. The book was published last year to mark GOCO’s 20th anniversary; it is called “John Fielder’s Guide to Colorado’s Great Outdoors,” a gorgeous, 344-page glossy round-up of parks and trails.

“We really felt like we owed it to the citizens of the state,” says Aangeenbrug, “to give them a guidebook that would make it easy for them to get out and enjoy the things that they’ve paid for.”

Fielder spent two years researching, photographing and writing the book (he also published a coffee table picture book entitled “Colorado’s Great Outdoors”). He drove 35,000 miles from one corner of Colorado to the other, visiting all 64 counties and nearly every city and town.

Flipping through the Boulder County section, I immediately find places I know –Flagstaff Nature Center, where we celebrated my daughter’s fifth birthday last fall;Caribou Ranch above Nederland;Heil Valley Ranchnear Lyons;Eldorado Canyon State Park. I’ve hiked or biked all of them without knowing their back stories.

In the meantime, GOCO is as busy as ever. They received $57 million in 2012 but still cannot meet the demand for funds for park and trails projects across the state. GOCO’s newest protected area isStaunton State Park, located only 30 minutes from downtown Denver, on U.S. 285 at Shaffer’s Crossing near Conifer. This 3,828-acre park will open to the public on May 18, giving Denverites access to alpine meadows, granite cliffs topping 10,000 feet above sea level and trails for hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, biking, horseback riding and rock climbing. Eventually, visitors will be able to camp overnight as well.

For my part, I’ll have a new appreciation whenever I see “Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund” or “This is your lottery funds at work” painted on the sign at the trailhead.

Or, for that matter, whenever I read, “Get 3 moneybag symbols and win prize shown!”

Joshua Berman is the author of “Moon Nicaragua” and “Moon Belize.” He can be found on the Web atJoshuaBerman.netand on Twitter@tranquilotravel.


Read more:Berman: Lottery still funding Colorado’s Great Outdoors – The Denver Post

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