Sopris Elementary School playground wins $100,000 GOCO grant |

Sopris Elementary School playground wins $100,000 GOCO grant

Sopris Elementary fifth-graders and playground committee members Kate Simpson and Nate Grosscup explain the design.
Will Grandbois / Post Independent |

A student-led effort to design a new playground for Sopris Elementary School in Glenwood Springs has won a $100,000 construction grant from the Great Outdoors Colorado program.

The GOCO School Yard Initiative grant was announced Monday. The initiative helps schools upgrade their playgrounds to enhance outdoor learning and encourage active play.

Sopris was one of five schools throughout the state to win money through this year’s initiative, beginning with a $7,000 design grant in December, according to a GOCO news release.

A student task force started working last summer and at the start of the school year to gather feedback from fellow students, community groups and the Glenwood City Council to do the preliminary playground design.

Improvements were designed to enhance community access to the playground and to address some significant drainage issues that have made part of the existing playground unusable during the spring due to standing water and mud. Drainage will be diverted to a bioswale that can be used for environmental education.

As for playground amenities, student polling led to a design that will include sliding zip line, a custom maze with an obstacle course and a variety of handicapped accessible spaces.

There’s also an eagle’s nest overlook, native trees and shrubs, and an outdoor garden. Traditional playground equipment has also been incorporated into the design, including swings, spinners and musical equipment.

The design includes a new space for soccer and other games, as well as an amphitheater for outdoor learning.

“We want to create a space where everyone can play and have fun,” Kate Simpson, a fifth-grade student at the school this past year, said during a visit last September to explain the preliminary concept.

The Roaring Fork School District, which oversees the school, has budgeted for the drainage improvements, and a portion of the money for the project is also coming out of the district bond issue that was passed by voters last fall.

Schools receiving School Yard Initiative grants also become part of Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Schools and Outdoor Learning Environment (SOLE) program, which helps to provide field trips, family nature nights and outdoor education training for teachers.

Grant-funded school playgrounds are also intended to serve the entire community by remaining open and accessible outside of school hours.

Created in 1992, GOCO invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds into community projects that enhance parks, trails, wildlife, rivers and open spaces. To date, GOCO has invested more than $10 million in Garfield County, including support for the bike park and community garden in Carbondale, Parachute’s new community park and Rifle Gap State Park.

Garfield County was also recently named a GOCO Inspire community and will be part of a $25 million initiative to get kids outside, according to the news release.

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