When you consider what has been accomplished with Lottery funds across Colorado since voters created GOCO in 1992, there's definitely cause to celebrate. And no one deserves to be celebrated more than our grantees—the local governments, land trusts, the Division of Parks and Wildlife, and all the other partners in successful projects that have made indelible marks on their communities with the help of GOCO/Lottery grants.

These organizations have done the hard work: They’ve taken the time to learn what people want in terms of outdoor recreation and open space resources. They’ve planned the projects, assembled the partnerships, applied for GOCO grants, and put Lottery funds to work.

The results of our partners’ efforts are showcased in two books, by renowned nature photographer John Fielder, commemorating our 20th anniversary. In collaboration with GOCO, Fielder spent nearly two years traveling 35,000 miles to visit each of Colorado’s 64 counties to photograph GOCO-funded places and resources.

John Fielder’s Guide to Colorado’s Great Outdoors: Lottery-funded Parks, Trails, Wildlife Areas & Open Spaces features more than 500 GOCO-funded recreational sites, including playgrounds, local parks, trails, state parks and state wildlife areas. This guide is the companion publication to the large-format book Colorado’s Great Outdoors: Celebrating 20 Years of Lottery-funded Lands, a photographic exploration of lands—from public open spaces to private working ranches—that GOCO funding helped protect.

Aside from reminding us what a beautiful state we live in, both books show how Lottery funds have changed Colorado’s landscape. Our investments in our many partners—and those partners’ achievements over the past 20 years—continue to better the lives of those who live, work and play here.

The most lasting of the nearly 3,500 projects we’ve funded in Colorado is the land that has been preserved in perpetuity, which includes land along river corridors, urban parcels, agricultural land and wildlife habitat. But no less important to Coloradans’ daily lives are the playgrounds, ball fields, skate parks, trails, and state parks GOCO has helped build and improve.

While a great deal has been accomplished statewide over two decades, there’s still much to do. This is evident every time our board and staff members visit Colorado communities, hear from stakeholders, and make grant decisions. In our fall 2012 grant cycle, we received 116 eligible applications requesting $19 million in Lottery funds for projects statewide. We were able to fund only 45 of those projects, reinvesting a total of $6.2 million in Lottery funds back into the state. Clearly, demand continues to outpace available dollars.

Our population is growing dramatically, as is pressure on our lands and resources. Lottery funding remains the only significant state funding source for our outdoor needs, something that is unlikely to change in light of the demands on state and federal budgets. GOCO continues to work with partners to balance Coloradans’ needs with the preservation of our outdoor and natural heritage. By working together, we can make the next 20 years as successful as the last.

John Fielder’s Guide to Colorado’s Great Outdoors retails for $23.95; Colorado’s Great Outdoors retails for $45. Both books are available at Costco, Amazon and bookstores near you.