VALLEY — The Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) board on Thursday announced funding awards for two San Luis Valley projects.
GOCO awarded the City of Alamosa $347,794 for construction of a community park in the Montaña Azul subdivision and awarded Costilla County a $225,274 grant to add approximately 125 acres to Batenburg Meadows, creating permanent access to public lands for residents along Rito Seco Creek. The projects were two of 14 selected for funding from a pool of 59, with funding requested totaling more than triple what was available.
The GOCO Local Park and Outdoor Recreation grant for Alamosa will help complete the first phase of building Montaña Azul Park, pictured above, which currently serves as a stormwater retention area. After development, the 5.6-acre park will continue to store storm water but will also provide close-to-home recreation for residents. The dual-purpose nature of the park makes it the first of its kind for the city.
The park is within walking distance of all Montaña Azul residents, who currently have no neighborhood park and who have cited transportation as a barrier to recreation, and is a short distance from Alamosa Elementary School, which will encourage more children and their families to play.
As part of phase one, centered around development of the eastern half of the park, the city will create an irrigated, youth soccer field, which will allow for multiple uses beyond soccer including football, Frisbee ®, and kite-flying. It will build a concrete basketball court, a quarter-mile walking track with native plantings, a community pavilion and shade structures, and an adaptive, ADA-accessible playground.
Construction will begin in April, and the park is slated to open to the public this fall.
To date, GOCO has invested nearly $7 million in projects in Alamosa County and has conserved more than 10,000 acres of land there. GOCO funding has supported the Alamosa Multi-Use Pavilion and Ice Rink, the Cole Park Skatepark, and the Recreation Inspires Opportunity (Alamosa RIO!) effort to get kids and families outside.
For the Costilla County project, the county has partnered with Colorado Open Lands to acquire 14 parcels comprising 125 acres of land, a particularly rare opportunity to acquire forested land for public use. Expanding Batenburg Meadows was identified by local residents as a top priority, and expanding the park will legitimize and increase public access.
Youth Conservation Camp has long been a rite of passage for generations of Costilla County youth to learn how to fish, get their hunter safety cards, and learn about local wildlife, but the program was in danger of ending due to accidental trespassing. Acquiring the additional 125 acres of land will solve that issue not only for the camp but for local residents who use the area for picnicking, fishing, and collecting firewood and piñon nuts.
Expanding public access along Rito Seco Creek will allow the county to more effectively manage wildfire risk and overall forest health. Permanently protecting the land from subdivision will also conserve wildlife habitat for elk, deer, beaver, and turkey.
In addition to the GOCO grant, $225,000 from the US Forest Service will help Costilla County complete the land acquisitions. Costilla County expects to complete all 14 acquisitions by the end of 2018 and plans to partner with San Luis Valley Great Outdoors to build a trail connecting Rito Seco Park to Batenburg Meadows.
To date, GOCO has invested $10.1 million in projects in Costilla County and has conserved more than 5,000 acres of land there. GOCO funding recently supported the Brownie Hills conservation project, which will create critical public lands access in the area. GOCO grants have also supported the Sangre de Cristo Greenbelt Trail and the county’s outdoor fitness center and exercise park.
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 when voters approved a Constitutional Amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 5,000 projects in urban and rural areas in all 64 counties without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.