Great Outdoors Colorado names new executive director


The board of trustees for the state’s outdoor recreation and land conservation funding arm named a new executive director last week.

Former director of strategy and engagement for Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Chris Castilian, has been named the top executive of Great Outdoors Colorado, which invests portions of Colorado Lottery proceeds by way of grants to local governments, land trusts and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Castilian will take over for Jim Spannstra, a seven-year member and vice chairman of the GOCO board who led the organization since May of last year, when Lise Aangeenbrug left to become executive vice president of the National Park Foundation in Washington D.C. Castilian will start March 6.

“I’m honored to become GOCO’s next executive director,” Castilian said in a statement. “I’m a believer in the GOCO mission, and I have this incredible opportunity to help further it by working with valued partners across the state to protect land, connect Coloradans to nature, and inspire youth to enjoy and care for our great outdoors.”

In his prior role with Anadarko, he led government affairs, social investment, employee engagement and stakeholder outreach for the Rockies region. In 2010, he led a coalition that worked with Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office and lawmakers to pass the Clear Air-Clean Jobs Act. Following Hickenlooper’s 2013 call for “zero tolerance” of fugitive oil and gas methane emissions, Castilian worked in helping the state establish methane regulations limiting pollution.

“We’re thrilled that Chris Castilian will represent GOCO as its executive director,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “GOCO is an important partner to the state as we fulfill the vision of Colorado the beautiful, with its goal of ensuring that every Coloradan will live within 10 minutes of a park, trail, or vibrant green space. Chris’s forward-thinking perspective and passion for the outdoors will help move this meaningful work forward.”

GOCO board members are appointed by the governor and subject to confirmation by the state Senate. Two trustees from Aurora’s 6th Congressional District make up part of the 17-member board, including longtime Aurora city employee and outdoors advocate Lisa Strand, and board chairman Jason Brinkley. Strand helped Aurora establish an open space network, miles of trails, two reservoirs and two nature centers. Brinkley has a long legislative background, including assistant director for water policy with the state’s Department of Natural Resources and as policy advisor for the governor.

“The (board) is extremely excited to welcome Chris as executive director,” Brinkley said. “We’re confident his expertise in strategic management, government relations and community-building will be great assets for GOCO and our many partners, and that Chris will be a strong, energetic leader as the organization implements its strategic plan. His innovative approach will help shape the organization’s future.”

A fourth-generation Coloradan, Castilian previously served as deputy chief of staff for Gov. Bill Owens. In that role, he was the top legislative contact and policy advisor to the governor.

“Chris is an outdoorsman himself who will bring to GOCO a tremendous background, knowledge and experience,” Owens said.

Castilian was previously director of the State Land Board, the state agency responsible for managing lands that the federal government has granted to the state in public trust. While directing that board, Castilian worked with The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Department of the Interior to help conserve Baca Ranch in the San Luis Valley. He was also director of legislative affairs for Colorado Counties, Inc., an organization representing county commissioners from around the state.

“Chris’ knowledge of Colorado communities, commitment to bringing people together through a shared vision, and enthusiasm for the outdoors will support GOCO well as the organization pursues its mission,” said former U.S. Senator and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who as director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources in 1990 helped advise then-Gov. Roy Romer in creating Great Outdoors Colorado.

In 1992, voters approved the Great Outdoors Colorado constitutional amendment directing Colorado Lottery revenues to the outdoors, including 10 percent directly to state Parks and Wildlife division, with about half going to GOCO, which in turns grants money to the agency.

Aurora has been beneficiary of GOCO funding since its inception, including millions of dollars in grants that have gone toward the Triple Creek Greenway Corridor Project. Slated for completion in the spring, according to The Trust for Public Land website, the project will add 14 miles of interconnected open space and trails between the existing Sand Creek Regional Greenway and the thousands of acres of public land surrounding the Aurora Reservoir. Overall, the greenway will offer pedestrians, bicyclists and horse rider 27 miles of uninterrupted travel between the reservoir and the South Platte River in Denver.

In 2016, GOCO funded 107 projects in 37 counties. Since 1992, GOCO has invested in more than 4,800 projects in all 64 Colorado counties.