Outdoors money

The Colorado Lottery, like all such institutionalized games of chance, has a potential downside. As a game with dramatically high odds that favor the house, the lottery’s success is based upon investment from those who are very unlikely to see any return. For most people, purchasing a lottery ticket is about as smart an expenditure as lighting a dollar bill on fire. But the community benefit the lottery’s 30 years has brought makes the investment worth it, regardless of how slim the odds of each of us hitting the jackpot.

For La Plata County, those three decades have meant $19.1 million in Great Outdoors Colorado and Conservation Trust Fund grants, as well as educational programming through lottery funding to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. That hefty sum, leveraged by local investment, has produced many amenities that are iconic of life in Durango. Dallabetta Park, Horse Gulch, Jacob’s Cliffs open space, the Cameron-Sterk property – now known as Oxbow Park & Preserve – land along the river, upon which the Animas River Trail now sits, the La Plata County Fairgrounds and the city of Durango’s multi-use fields are all realities because of lottery funding, administered through GOCO or the CTF, which is for open-space purchase. Those monies are often matched by a local investment, and the city of Durango in particular has been savvy in leveraging local dollars to secure the state funding for big purchases and projects. As Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz said, “GOCO grants are pretty competitive, but we’ve gotten our share. Conservation Trust Fund dollars are distributed on a per capita basis, and we’ve managed to leverage those dollars with city dollars to make some nice open space purchases.”

Nice indeed. Horse Gulch, Jacob’s Cliffs and Oxbow Park in particular are key landscapes whose long-term protection as open space is critical to Durango’s identity. Each of these, and the many other acquisitions and improvements made possible by lottery money, contributes significantly to the quality of life in Durango. There is no shortage of places to recreate – in fact, the number and scale of amenities is growing at a clip – in, and near, the city. Biking, hiking, boating, ball-playing, equestrian activities and just enjoying the great outdoors are integral values in Durango and La Plata County, and lottery money has played a huge role in making that possible.

As we celebrate Earth Day today, with an eye toward how to make cities greener and transportation and energy cleaner, it is worth a look around our community to see just how much we have invested toward that goal. The funding brought about by the Colorado Lottery has contributed in no small amount to making Southwest Colorado a cleaner and greener place to live, with the welcome byproduct of many fun activities for residents and visitors, young and old. The state has administered this funding well, and the city of Durango in particular has been skillful and strategic in securing that money to build out its vision for parks, open space and trails.

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