There’s a lot of fanfare around grant awards, but what happens after the ceremonial checks are presented and the reporters have published their articles? Our partners get down to business.

For 28 years, GOCO has improved Colorado’s great outdoors with the help of Colorado Lottery proceeds. We’ve put more than $1.3 billion in proceeds back into 5,300 projects to improve the lives of Coloradans across the state.

After projects are awarded funding, grant recipients have about two years to make their projects happen.

In January, 14 projects closed, representing more than $1.4 million in GOCO investments into local communities across the state. Scroll to see if one’s near you:

Big Dry Creek Pilot Project Floodplain Restoration

$100,000 grant to City of Thornton

The City of Thornton used its GOCO Habitat Restoration grant to restore approximately 25 acres of Big Dry Creek Open Space, an important natural resource and ecosystem for east-west wildlife migration. Due to erosion and noxious weeds, Big Dry Creek’s floodplain had been severely compromised. GOCO funding was used to improve conditions along the creek and create overflow wetlands that will reduce flood hazards and protect water quality. These restoration efforts have also helped improve critical habitat for bald eagles, black‐tailed prairie dogs, peregrine falcons, red foxes, and great blue herons, among other species.

Check out the Big Dry Creek Recreation And Floodplain Restoration Master Plan

Big Thompson River Habitat Restoration Project

$84,309 grant to City of Loveland

The City of Loveland used GOCO funds to restore seven acres of wetland habitat and floodplain areas on Medina’s Crossing Natural Area in Larimer County. This natural area, including its upstream and downstream habitats, experienced significant damage from the September 2013 floods. Project scope included discontinuing the intensive cattle grazing that had been impacting river health and hindered flood recovery efforts. Additionally, the City worked with volunteers and partners to re-establish native vegetation in the area through community planting events. These restoration efforts have helped stabilize soils, reduce erosion, and augment the recovery efforts of several broader-scale restoration projects occurring in the area.

Read a press release about the project

Central City Trails Master Plan

$47,800 grant to City of Central

With its GOCO Planning grant, Central City created a comprehensive master plan to develop a trail network within the city and improve connectivity to nearby public lands and outdoor recreation amenities. The city aims to leverage outdoor recreation as an economic driver, however, many of the existing trails utilized by residents and visitors are not designated trails, lack accessibility, or are unknown to much of the public. The master plan bridges the existing outdoor recreational gap and provides the community and trail users access to meaningful outdoor experiences.

Access the Central City Trails Master Plan

City of Thornton Big Dry Creek Russian Olive Removal

$26,521 grant to City of Thornton

The City of Thornton used GOCO funds to employ chainsaw crews from Mile High Youth Corps to continue Russian olive tree removal at Big Dry Creek Open Space. Crews worked to treat 250 acres of open space, improving the overall health and stability of Big Dry Creek, promoting the growth of native vegetation, and preserving critical wildlife habitat. The City and Adams County previously received funding for four weeks of work to remove invasive species from 293 acres of open space.

Learn more about Big Dry Creek Open Space

Coal Creek Canyon Seasonal Sanitary/Storage Facility

$45,000 grant to Coal Creek Canyon Park and Recreation District

Coal Creek Canyon Park and Recreation District (CCCPRD), in partnership with Jeffco Public Schools, used GOCO funds to build a unisex bathroom and storage facility at Coal Creek Canyon School’s ballfield. No restroom facility had existed on site, which limited programming and event opportunities. The new storage structure and ADA-accessible bathroom will serve students, youth and adult sports groups, summer athletic camps, and other groups that use the field.

Read more about the school’s ballfield improvements

Del Norte Riverfront Project: Phase 2

$350,000 grant to Town of Del Norte

The Town of Del Norte used its Local Park and Outdoor Recreation (LPOR) grant to advance the Del Norte Riverfront Project, a community-led effort to improve access, create recreation infrastructure, and enhance habitat along the Rio Grande. GOCO funds were used to realize phase two of the project, which included pedestrian river access and a whitewater play wave. The project scope also included the designing and shaping of channel structures to improve river habitat and stabilize streambanks. Additionally, grant funds were used to build a new ADA-accessible picnic area complete with a covered shelter, tables, benches, and recycling facilities. Lastly, bilingual signage was developed and installed at key areas around the park.

Check out the full scope of the Del Norte Riverfront Project

Fairgrounds & Outdoor Arena Renovation

$157,103 grant to San Miguel County

With the help of GOCO funds, San Miguel County made upgrades to the existing Outdoor Arena at the San Miguel County Fairgrounds & Regional Park (SMCFRP) in Norwood. This unique rural facility has served the community for decades and was in need of repairs in order to ensure a safe public venue for equestrian training, practices, and events. In order to meet demands placed on the outdoor arena, this project scope included replacing fencing and footing and renovating the existing structure to improve drainage. Reliable footing, and its ability to drain quickly, are critical to equestrian events. The benefits of these improvements include increasing economic activity for the community, inviting locals to participate in major events, and supporting local clubs.

Read a press release about the fairground upgrades

Little Bijou Ranch Cheatgrass Control

$10,032 grant to Bird Conservancy of The Rockies

With its Habitat Restoration grant, Bird Conservancy of the Rockies partnered with Ducks Unlimited, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and private landowners in Morgan County to manage invasive grass species and restore native prairie habitat at Little Bijou Ranch. This particular location, along Little Bijou Creek in the South Platte River watershed, is an area known for its abundance of migratory waterfowl that forage on the hearty native grasses and forbs. Historically, much of the region has experienced continuous overgrazing leading to an invasion of undesired weeds, including cheatgrass, a non-native but common grass seen across western states. GOCO funds were used to eradicate cheatgrass and restore native vegetation across approximately 230 acres of land, which the partners hope will restore soil health, protect against erosion, and improve wildlife habitat.

Check out the full scope of the project

LoVa Trail Phase III

$75,000 grant to City of Glenwood Springs

The City of Glenwood Springs received a GOCO Connect Planning grant to realize phase three of the Lower Valley (LoVa) Trail project. Funds were used to hire a consultant to evaluate right-of-way issues, environmental impacts of trail construction, and design a pedestrian bridge. Additionally, the project focused on designing the South Canyon section of the trail, connecting paved trails in West Glenwood Springs to soft trails in South Canyon and ultimately connecting Eagle and Mesa counties. This section of the trail also addresses immediate safety concerns where trail users are forced onto the shoulder of Interstate 70 traveling through Glenwood Canyon. The LoVa Trail is part of the “16 trails in 2016” project, which identified 16 important trail gaps, missing trail segments, and unbuilt trails across the state and elevated them to priority projects by 2016.

Learn more about the “16 in 16” initiative

Madison Elementary Playground

$105,607 grant to City of Greeley

The City of Greeley partnered with Madison Elementary to redevelop the school’s outdated playground. Students and members of the community were engaged in creating and designing a dynamic and inclusive play space. Funds were used to install a new swing set, slides, and a variety of equipment that students can climb, balance, and spin on. The play yard also includes four fitness stations and two buddy benches to promote friendship and inclusion. The new amenities will provide students, the community, and the adjacent Boys and Girls club with a safe and modern space to play.

Watch a short video about the play yard’s construction

Restoration Plan for the Monument Corridor

$40,000 grant to Colorado West Land Trust

With the help of GOCO funds, Colorado West Land Trust (CWLT) hired Western Colorado Conservation Corps for restoration work at Monument Corridor open space. Corps members treated and removed invasive vegetation along the trail corridor, planted and seeded native species, cleared debris, and helped plant a demonstration garden at the Lunch Loop Trailhead. Treating and removing the invasive vegetation will help ensure a better experience for trail users, protect nearby wetlands, and reduce wildfire risk.

Read a press release on the Monument Corridor restoration project

Saguache Creek - Saguache and San Luis Creeks Conservation Legacy

$235,000 grant to Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust

Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) used its GOCO Open Space grant to acquire a conservation easement on 2,241 acres of Saguache Creek Ranch in the northern San Luis Valley. Conservation of the Saguache Creek Ranch will protect approximately 2.18 miles of the Saguache Creek, 4.35 miles of the North Branch of the Saguache Creek, and builds on previous conservation efforts that have protected a 25-mile stretch of the Saguache Creek and its tributaries. This monumental conservation legacy contributes to the preservation of exceptional wildlife habitat in the San Luis Valley and enhances the scenic quality and rural character of over 415,000 acres of public lands, including BLM land, National Forest, Wilderness, and the Great Sand Dunes National Park. A second phase to the project will be acquiring a conservation easement on the nearby Pheasant Valley Ranch, which will result in the protection of 3,858 total acres.

Check out CCALT’s press release about conserving Saguache Creek Ranch

Shawsheen Elementary Outdoor Learning Play Yard

$110,000 grant to City of Greeley

The City of Greeley partnered with Shawsheen Elementary to revamp the school’s outdated playground. The new, ADA-accessible play yard features a climbing web and bars, slides, spinners, and swings. The school also built a learning garden complete with outdoor seating. Students, staff, and community members were engaged in the playground’s concepting and designing process. Additionally, the school fundraised $18,000 for the project over a two-year period and St. Patrick’s Presbyterian Church contributed $7,200 to help make the playground a reality.

Read on about the playground’s design process

Yust Ranch, Blue River Restoration

$55,716 grant to Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust

Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust used its Habitat Restoration grant to manage a river restoration project on one-third of a mile of the Blue River on Yust Ranch– a property conserved, in-part, through previous GOCO investments. The nonprofit land trust worked with the landowner to improve natural water flows, remove debris, and stabilize the streambank. The restoration project also included excavating portions of the river, clearing artificial islands that had developed in the river channel, and placing large rocks and boulders along the riverbank to mitigate erosion. The restoration project will help improve habitat for native species of plants and animals and is part of a larger, landscape-scale effort known as the Colorado River Headwaters Project.

Read more about the restoration work on Yust Ranch