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6 schools earn grants to create new kid-designed, nature-based play areas

Thursday, April 16, 2015 -- GOCO
April 16, 2015


Contact: Todd Cohen, o: 303.226.4530 c: 303-503-9068, tcohen@goco.org, or

Laura Cardon, 303-226-4531, lcardon@goco.org.

Counties:  Adams, Jefferson, Lake, Lincoln, Mesa, Summit. 


DENVER – More kid-designed, nature-based playgrounds will spring up at six Colorado public schools thanks to a Great Outdoors Colorado grant program that helps create play areas that are more physically active and inspire more outdoor learning.

The schools in Adams, Jefferson, Lake, Lincoln, Mesa, and Summit counties initially received funds last fall to work with a design consultant team to help create a master plan for their school yards.  Each school designated a Student Task Force Committee to help influence the input of the community.   The GOCO board today awarded grants to each school, ranging from $106,000 to $114,000, to help make their dream playgrounds come true.

GOCO has previously awarded grants to 24 schools, serving more than 10,000 students, to improve their aging playgrounds as well as add outdoor classroom spaces. The grants require the kids to be involved in the design process, ensuring the new play yard is a direct reflection of the students’ imaginations.

“We took inspiration from the individual community demographics and unique ecological settings.  Outdoor classrooms became a centralizing feature among all the projects.  We envision the kids making their playgrounds a learning environment as much as a place to explore their unique environmental attributes” said Christopher P. Schooler, MLA, a landscape and planning professional who led the design team consisting of Tony Mazzeo with Plot Project LLC, a Denver based landscape architecture firm, and Mark T. Lang, a construction specialist with Wood Site Design in Evergreen.

This is the first time GOCO has provided funds to help grant applicants design their proposals.

“We wanted to help schools dream big and make the best use of their space,” GOCO Executive Director Lise Aangeenbrug said. “GOCO offered the consultant so schools that may not have access to design services would be encouraged to apply to our grant program.”

The grant recipients and their plans follow:



Westgate Community School, Thornton, Adams County
Grant: $114,000

Students at Westgate have no playground, just an open field with a chicken coop and a repainted parking lot on their 20-acre campus. That will change with this project. Their new play yard, inspired to resemble an Ewok Village, will include an eco-play zone that encourages physical activity and exploration, an outdoor classroom, social areas, play structures, climbing and sitting boulders and many new trees. 



Westgate Elementary School, Lakewood, Jefferson County
Grant: $114,000

The project will replace the school’s deteriorating play yard, which was last improved in 1988, with new play equipment for the school playground and adjoining Westgate Neighborhood Park. The school will add an outdoor classroom, a rain garden and butterfly garden, a shade structure and raised planting beds for a vegetable garden. Existing concrete will be replaced by a vegetated swale and an expanded play area will be filled with nature-inspired play equipment including climbing rocks and natural material balance beams.



West Park Elementary School, Leadville, Lake County
Grant: $114,000

The project will replace an aging dirt and pea gravel play area that is prone to flooding, which limits the school children’s physical activity and play area. The new play area will feature an outdoor classroom, community garden planters, educational bioswale with native plants, a walking path and sledding hill, and new nature-inspired play equipment like a climbing boulder. Bioswales are landscape elements designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water while providing detention and snow melt areas simultaneously.



Limon Public School, Limon, Lincoln County
Grant $113,499

Limon K-12 is getting a new school building thanks to the state BEST program, which receives some of its funding from the Colorado Lottery, which also funds GOCO. When the school construction budget had to drastically cut funds for the playground, Limon turned to GOCO. The new playground will incorporate traditional play areas with an outdoor classroom, a “learning prairie” and a boulder garden.



Taylor Elementary School, Palisade, Mesa County

Palisade’s only elementary school will replace 35-year-old steel play equipment and install an outdoor classroom, climbing boulders, new play equipment, native plant and butterfly learning gardens, a measured path and exercise areas as well as a ‘buddy bench’. The school plans to add fossils to an existing sandbox to create an archeological dig site, and if the budget allows, a zip-line play structure and swings.



Dillon Valley Elementary School, Dillon, Summit County
Grant: $106,209

Dillon Valley Elementary school yard serves as the community park and school play grounds.  The project will replace old plastic and metal play equipment with natural elements, like a vegetated “forest swale to mitigate snow melt and drainage issues” (a parent donated $15,000 for trees) an eco-play zone, walkway, community garden planters, and an outdoor classroom. Serious drainage issues will be fixed to allow year-round use and reduce wet and snowy patches from developing on the main walkway.

 “Meetings with the students, staff and neighbors helped prioritize many of the more natural components of the project like the integration of  trees, boulders and the outdoor classroom into the plans.  The students were also adamant about their needing a 'bridge' as a monument. The project as a whole has been an excellent example of how partnerships and collaboration can be an important aspect of community development, Schooler said.

Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts, and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created by voters in 1992, GOCO has funded more than 4,500 projects in all 64 counties without any tax dollar support. The grants are funded by GOCO’s share of Colorado Lottery revenues, which are divided between GOCO, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Conservation Trust Fund and school construction. For more information, visit www.goco.org