Interior Department Announces Largest Round of ORLP Grant Funding for Park & Trail Creation, Renovation
The Department of the Interior announced a funding opportunity for more than $224 million in grants for 2024 for local communities across the U.S. for the creation of new parks and trails, or substantial renovations to existing parks through the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) program. This announcement represents the largest grant funding for ORLP since the launch of the program.
At the same time, the Interior Department announced that the National Park Service will distribute $21.9 million in funding through the ORLP program for the redevelopment or creation of new local parks in Anchorage, Alaska; Moorhead, Minn.; Greensboro, N.C.; Buffalo, N.Y.; and Norfolk, Va. In addition, the department is launching a nationwide tour by Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz and department leaders to hear directly from community members on the need to connect communities with access to the outdoors, and to encourage state participation in the ORLP program.
"The power of nature is undeniable. Children and families in every corner of America deserve spaces to recreate and enjoy the outdoors, regardless of their zip code or background,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “The Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program is a cornerstone of the Interior Department’s efforts to ensure that communities across America have access to nature. Today’s historic announcement will continue our work to connect communities to green spaces and ensure that efforts are community-centered and driven.”
“A sense of connection to nature and the outdoors begins in the places closest to where we live," said National Park Service Director Chuck Sams. “Improvements to city parks, like safe and engaging play areas for children and better outdoor recreational amenities for all ages, foster the health of the land and the health of a community. The National Park Service looks forward to working with communities to nurture a love for public lands starting with the discovery and enjoyment of city parks.”
This is the sixth round of funding from the ORLP program, which includes today’s announcement and additional awards expected in early 2024. In the latest round of selected cities, priority was given to projects incorporating or benefiting from green and blue natural surroundings that will help address city heat islands and provide health benefits to park visitors. The $21.9 million in funds will be matched at least 1:1 with state, local and private dollars.
Since its inception in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has funded $5.2 billion to support more than 45,000 projects in every county in the country. In 2020, Congress permanently funded the LWCF at $900 million per year with wide bipartisan support. The LWCF supports increased public access to and protection for federal public lands and waters—including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and recreation areas—and provides matching grants to state governments for the acquisition and development of public parks and other outdoor recreation sites.
Applications are being accepted now in Grants.gov for the next round of funding through May 27, 2024, with an early submission deadline of April 30, 2024, giving communities the chance to access these funds even sooner.
Selected projects for the current round of funding include:
- $621,000 for Anchorage, Alaska to improve Russian Jack Springs Park, located in an area with a high concentration of low-income youth. The planned improvements will greatly expand community spaces. The project will provide singletrack mountain biking trails, a sledding hill and other park amenities to increase recreational activity at the park.
- $5 million for Moorhead, Minn., to address the aging Romkey Park in a community with a high poverty rate. The project will replace pool facilities built in 1958, expand the playground, and add a variety of new spaces and features, including: basketball and pickleball courts, a soccer field, skatepark, sledding hill/summer seating, nature play and play berms, picnic shelter with a small stage, lighted walking paths, trees, and rain gardens.
- $2,085,542 for the City of Buffalo, N.Y. to rehabilitate the severely deteriorating multiuse athletic field at Roosevelt Park, built in the 1950s in a community with a high poverty rate. The park will provide a walking/running loop, two tennis courts, two basketball courts, an adult fitness area, a picnic area, park entry terrace, a chess area, 100 new trees and improved green landscaping, two pavilions, lighting and site furnishings.
- $4,384,285 to the City of Greensboro, N.C., to renovate Nocho Park to provide much needed improvements to a historically underserved area in east Greensboro. This project includes upgrading a multipurpose field to regulation size, replacing and relocating playground equipment with an innovative nature play area, and adding a full-size basketball court, amphitheater and pavilion, wide pathways, all-weather hammocks, additional parking, sustainable landscaping and new restrooms. The site will also feature multiple community gathering areas with seating, picnic tables, and shade structures.
- $10 million to Norfolk, Va., for St. Paul’s Greenway, a multipurpose park adjacent to a redeveloped public housing site. Frequent flooding of the coastal public housing led to the redevelopment. Park development will include uncovering a buried creek and creating a resilient creek area as a neighborhood green space and to prevent future flooding. New recreational amenities will include: two playgrounds, a 10-station fitness area, splash pad, overlook deck, channel pier, outdoor stage, game tables, bike racks, grills, and an outdoor public gathering/educational area and pavilion.