Will Rogers Elementary School in Colorado Springs School District 11 recently received a $110,000 grant from Colorado Lottery proceeds through Great Outdoors Colorado to help build a new playground.

 The original playground was created in 1956 and hasn’t been updated since. The grounds have nearly no shade or grassy areas.

The project will “deurbanize” the playground, making it look and feel more like being in nature with a dry river bed with bridge crossings, play structures made from cottonwood logs, and added trees, grass and hills.

The school also plans to add traditional playground equipment, a pathway for bikes and walking, and a grassy area for team sports.

The school community has really rallied around the project, raising $8,000 through the PTO, a relatively large sum for a school with an 84 percent free and reduced lunch rate.

The grant is part of GOCO’s School Yard Initiative, in which schools apply in partnership with local governments for funding to build outdoor spaces where kids enjoy unstructured play and outdoor learning.

All school yards must be designed, in part, by students.

Funded schools are eligible to become part of Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Schools and Outdoor Learning Environment program  that provides field trips, family nature nights and outdoor education training for teachers.

The school also is involved with Out the Door Pikes Peak, a coalition working to get kids outside that GOCO funded in December with a $1.3 million grant.

The school wants to become a point of connection for the entire southeast Colorado Springs community to get outside close to home.

The school also received a $160,000 grant from the Colorado Health Foundation this year to help with the first phase of the project.

Increasing the number of high-quality parks is critical for the region, with kids in southeast Colorado Springs reporting 20 percent lower satisfaction with their close-to-home parks than kids who live in other regions of the city, according to GOCO.

GOCO has awarded $54 million in projects in El Paso County, including supporting Cheyenne Mountain State Park, Ute Valley Park, the reconstruction of the Manitou Incline and Colorado Springs’ Legacy Loop trail.

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