Grants for Urban Outdoor Recreation Available
By Dave Ramont
The National Park Service (NPS) is offering $15 million in grants to develop outdoor recreation spaces in urban areas, according to NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. The deadline for applications is May 20, 2016. Those who may apply include state and local government agencies (cities, counties, park districts, etc.) and federally-recognized Indian tribes within or serving areas delineated by the Census Bureau from the 2010 Census as having populations of 50,000 or more people and consisting of densely settled territory.
Project proposals ranging from $250,000 to $750,000 each will be entertained, as well as planning grants up to $75,000. Projects must have matching funds and partners. Funding for eligible projects can be used to acquire and/or develop land to create new public parks and other outdoor recreation spaces—or upgrade existing ones—in underserved neighborhoods.
"We are excited to offer these competitive grants, which will be matched with local partnerships to create safe outdoor recreation places for people, especially young people, in neighborhoods of America's cities," Jarvis said.
Eighty percent of Americans live in or near a city, and in many cities, one in three residents lacks access to a park or natural area. And studies have shown that access to nature can provide numerous mental and physical health benefits, create community connectedness, and reduce air pollution. It can also aid in boosting local economies and decreasing rates of crime and other detrimental activities.
The NPS Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program (ORLP) competitive grants are made available through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). This is the second round of these grants. The NPS pledged $2.9 million of the grants for pilot projects last year. Communities and partners matched that money with projects in eight cities worth a total of $6.1 million.
Jarvis believes Congress recognized the value of the projects and partnerships, responding with a fivefold increase in project grant money this year. "We're looking to build on the excitement generated by these pilot projects and grants to add many more projects across the country," he noted. A pilot planning grant program mini-competition—which will fund special studies to help guide park and recreation investment to urbanized areas where it's most needed—was also announced.
Since being established in 1964, the LWCF has supported tens of thousands of state and local projects, conserving land in all 50 states. The main source of income for the fund comes from fees paid by gas and oil companies drilling offshore in waters owned by the American people. No taxpayer dollars are used. President Obama proposed full funding for the LWCF in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget.
To apply, proposals should be developed in cooperation with the lead agency for LWCF in each state. The full funding opportunity announcement and pre-application materials are available online at grants.gov. Look for Land and Water Conservation Fund Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program.