Public invited to discuss uses of Lottery funds

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By JOSH NICHOLS

Daily Press writer

Tonight, people from Grand, Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt counties will have an opportunity to voice their opinions on how they think state lottery dollars should be spent.

A portion of the state's Lottery proceeds are distributed by Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and go toward parks, open space, outdoor recreation and wildlife.

A significant amount of those dollars end up in the Yampa Valley.

At 10 a.m. this morning, a GOCO stakeholder meeting was held in Olympian Hall at Howelsen Hill Lodge in Steamboat Springs.

Following the meeting, staff and board members toured the Yampa River System Legacy Project, which received a $10.4 million grant from GOCO.

A public meeting will be at 7 p.m. tonight in Olympian Hall to get resident input on how those lottery proceeds should be spent.

Chris Leding with Great Outdoors Colorado said the meeting will be the thirteenth held in the state in recent months.

She said there are three key reasons the meetings are being held statewide.

The last time the group updated its funding plan was three years ago, Leding said, and since the plan was last updated, there has been considerable turnover within the staff.

Also, before the implementation of Powerball in the state, there had been a steady decline in lottery funds, she said.

An assessment must be made about whether or not the income from Powerball will continue or whether it will decline once the newness of the game has worn off.

"It is a good opportunity for us to get out and hear from people in Colorado," Leding said.

Dave Pike, Craig Parks and Recreation Department director, said the funding being discussed at today's meetings is very important to the city.

Craig has received $75,000 a year the past few years from GOCO, which equals one-third and sometimes close to one-half of the capital budget Pike has to work with.

"If you want to have some input, you should go [to the meeting]," Pike said. "It depends on how strongly people feel about where the money should be spent."

Pike said Craig has been fortunate enough to receive several GOCO grants.

Two examples are monies received for the Ridgeview Elementary School playground and the enhancements at Woodbury Park.

One particular area Pike said he always takes interest in is GOCO's mini-grant program, which looks at communities with 15,000 people or less.

"It allows us to compete on an even playing field with communities our size," he said. "We wouldn't have the facilities we have without Great Outdoors Colorado or Lottery money," Pike said. "I've been real happy with the way they run GOCO."

GOCO has awarded more than $266 million to outdoor recreation and wildlife projects since 1994. The money has been used to create a variety of projects in both state and federal projects.

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