In February, the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office will begin accepting applications for grants intended to promote outdoors activities. Those efforts can range from building parks and trails to conserving wildlife habitat and preserving working farm land.
A press release from the Recreation and Conservation Office noted that the grant programs are the largest source of funding for many of Washington’s outdoor recreation offerings. Additionally, the grant program is the only funding provided by the state for the express purpose of protecting working farms and forests.
Beginning this year the state has implemented a new policy that will allow some local governments to reduce the amount of resources they are required to contribute for a pair of the grants. The first grant, the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, is the largest contributor to local parks, trails and water access areas. The other applicable grant, offered through the Youth Athletic Facilities program funds ball fields, skate parks, swimming pools and assorted outdoors parks.
“This is a new opportunity for communities with low income populations or in distressed or federal disaster areas to take advantage of our grants to build their long-envisioned parks or trails,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, in a press release. “We listened to local leaders who told us that they often can’t build community parks or trails because they can’t raise the required match. With this new policy, certain communities would have their required match reduced, some as low as 10 percent.”
In order to fit the bill for that reduction in matching funds some communities will be required to submit a comprehensive plan detailing their need for assistance no later than March 1. A table explaining which communities qualify is available online at rco.wa.gov/grants/MatchReduction.shtml.
“These grant programs are essential to keeping Washington a great place to live, work and play,” Cottingham said, in the release. “Not only do these grants help create incredible public parks, trails, conservation areas and working farms and forests, they also put people to work and support our economy.”
A study recently completed by the RCO shows that more than $21 billion is spent annually in Washington in pursuit of outdoor recreation and the assorted equipment. The outdoor recreation industry also props up roughly 199,000 jobs in Washington.
All told the RCO oversees 15 grant programs. Since 1964 more than 9,500 projects have received more than $2 billion in funding from the grants. That money is generated through federal and state funding, including bonds, taxes and user fees.
This year, grants will be offered for the following categories:
• Boating — Grants to acquire, develop and renovate facilities including launching ramps, guest moorage and support facilities for motorized boats and other watercraft.
• Parks — Grants to buy land and develop parks, ball fields, sports courts, outdoor swimming pools and waterfront access areas for the public.
• Shooting Ranges — Grants to buy land, develop and renovate firearm ranges and archery training and practice facilities.
• Trails — Grants to maintain and develop trails.
• Farmland Preservation — Grants to preserve valuable farmland.
• Forestland Preservation — Grants to lease or buy voluntary land preservation agreements, or conservation easements, for forests to ensure they remain available for timber production in the future.
• Wildlife Habitat Conservation — Grants to conserve significant natural areas or habitat for plants and animals. This includes grants to protect areas along streams and waterways.
“Competition for these grants is always high,” Cottingham said in the release. “We usually have funding for only half the proposals submitted. The grant proposals are scored by volunteers with experience in outdoor recreation and conservation, which means the evaluation process is fair and open and helps ensure that only the best projects float to the top and get funded.”
Some applications are due by May 1 while others are not due until Nov. 1. Additional information on the grants offered this year is available online at rco.wa.gov/grants/grants_available.shtml.
An online webinar will be offered at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 15 in order to provide interested parties with an overview of the available grants and the application process.
Registration for the webinar can be taken care of online at attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5238836843326516994. Applications will be accepted beginning that same day.
For additional information, Lewis County residents should contact their local grant manager, Kim Sellers, at 360-902-3082. Thurston County residents should check in with Dan Haws at 360-902-3079. Residents of Cowlitz, Clark and Pierce counties can call Alison Greene at 360-902-2587 and residents of Grays Harbor, Pacific and Wahkiakum counties can contact Ben Donatelle at 360-725-3932.