Great Outdoors director to step down |

Great Outdoors director to step down

DENVER – John Hereford, executive director of Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), announced July 4 he is leaving the organization he has led since 2000 to pursue private sector business interests. 

Last fiscal year, GOCO awarded more than $55 million in lottery proceeds for open space, wildlife and outdoor recreation projects across the state.

During his time in office, Hereford was asked by the Summit County Commissioners and Open Space Program to look closer at spending money in the county. Hereford was told that funding inequities were obvious.

In recent weeks, GOCO funded a portion of the county’s Cow Camp open space purchase in the Lower Blue.

Prior to serving as executive director, Hereford served for two years on the GOCO board. 

“After almost five years of intensive involvement with the organization, first as a board member and then as executive director, I really miss the business world and my children’s college fund misses it as well,” said Hereford, a Harvard MBA whose background is in investment banking and technology startups.

“It’s been a great honor to serve the state, to learn so much from so many fascinating people and, hopefully, to have had an impact on a set of issues that are very important to Coloradans.” 

Gov. Bill Owens praised Hereford’s tenure.

“John did an outstanding job for GOCO and our state. He is not only an effective leader and shrewd strategist, but he brings a level of humor and enthusiasm to the job that is just a lot of fun to be around. As governor I hate to see him go, but as a longtime friend I certainly wish him the best,” Owens said.

Since being with GOCO, Hereford has led the organization through a number of internal and external changes. Accomplishments occurring during his tenure, according to Hereford, include:

– Re-establishment of GOCO’s signature Legacy program, launching new efforts to protect landscape scale agricultural lands in the Wet Mountain region and South Park. In 2002, GOCO invested $34 million in 10 Legacy projects throughout the state.   

– Development of the Colorado Species Conservation Partnership, an innovative approach to endangered species recovery through protection of critical habitat. This partnership uses new methods of dealing with private landowners and will leverage $12.5 million of additional federal funds toward Colorado’s leading edge efforts in this area.

– Increasing GOCO support and involvement with the Denver Learning Landscapes project that transforms poor quality inner city schoolyards into state of the art recreation areas and community parks.

– Awarding $165 million including for projects that will result in the protection of more than 231,885 acres of open space and wildlife habitat and create or enhance 306 park and outdoor recreation areas. 

– Cost-cutting through reorganization and adoption of new technologies, resulting in GOCO’s administrative overhead being reduced by 17 percent, with savings of $725,000 in the past two and a half years. 

“Beyond the numbers, we have also tried to maintain a commitment to the wide and diverse array of interests GOCO serves,” Hereford said.

“Most people know GOCO for its land protection efforts, which will always be a cornerstone of what it does. However, we also have an important role to play in protecting species and making sure communities have parks and playgrounds.”

Diane Gansauer, GOCO’s current deputy director, will serve as acting executive director, effective Aug. 1, until the GOCO board chooses a replacement for Hereford. Summit County manager Ron Holliday serves on the board.

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