Editor's Desk - March 2009
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A Little Stimulation

Unless you've been living under a rock—and in this economy, who knows? that may be what you prefer—you surely know that a stimulus bill recently passed Congress and was signed by President Barack Obama. What you may not realize, though, is how recreation, sports and fitness facilities might stand to benefit from that bill's passage.

But before we take a closer look at some of the provisions the stimulus bill contained, let's take one step back to consider this fact: The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released its 2009 Report Card for America's Infrastructure in late January, ultimately assigning a cumulative grade of D, and noting the need for $2.2 trillion invested over five years from all levels of government and the private sector.

Public parks and recreation are part of the ASCE's assessment, and that grade saw no change from 2005, again receiving a C-, having shown "no tangible improvement." The association stated, "Despite the $730 billion per year they contribute to the U.S. economy, and the nearly 6.5 million jobs they support, parks, beaches and other recreational facilities continue to be underfunded."

Things are bumpy out there—literally, if you're driving on one of the nation's many highways or bridges—but the recent passage of the $787.2 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which aims to boost employment while concentrating spending on specific areas of need, takes steps toward improving the nation's infrastructure.

It didn't come without a fight, at least on the part of parks. The Senate version of the bill included an amendment that precluded community parks from receiving any of the stimulus funds. Luckily the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) has a strong advocacy arm. They scored a major victory in the negotiations over the final version of the bill. There are now several measures contained in the stimulus that may directly or indirectly benefit parks and recreation agencies, as well as other recreational facilities.

According to the NRPA, various competitive grant programs, including special education services, childcare services and community development block grant programs can benefit park and recreation agencies. In addition, funds are available in the bill to remove and clean up brownfields. These former commercial sites often become beautiful park settings. You can visit www.nrpa.org to find the association's analysis of how stimulus funds may apply to your park district or agency.

In just one example, the bill includes $3.2 billion to help state and local governments invest in greater energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions. Of that, 62 percent goes directly to counties and cities. The grants can be used for such uses as developing bike paths and pedestrian walkways to reduce energy used in transportation, retrofitting to increase efficiency and more.

Other programs included in the bill aim to benefit health and wellness, boost the number of low-income families who can get help putting their children into childcare situations—commonly found at park and recreation facilities—and more.

The National Park Service, which has a $9 billion backlog of projects according to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, gets $750 million in the bill for infrastructure projects.

If you're not operating a public park agency, but a privately owned facility, you might also see benefits from the bill's passage. In addition to partnering with various agencies on some of the projects already mentioned, you may also benefit from two major tax incentives for small businesses included in the bill: accelerated depreciation and increased expensing. Talk to your tax adviser or accountant to learn how these measures may help your business.

Many schools also will likely see benefits in terms of infrastructure spending. Funding in the bill for the State Recovery plan includes a provision that states a share of allocated funds can be designated for renovation and modernization of public K-12 schools.

Schools may be in, but pools were out. While the NRPA succeeded in ensuring community parks didn't get cut off from funding in the package, the final language did preclude spending on swimming pools, golf courses and some other recreational facilities.

To ensure accountability and to prevent waste, the Obama Administration has set up a Web site to allow citizens to track where their tax dollars are going.

You can check that out by visiting www.recovery.gov.

Let us know how you're doing—whether you receive help or not—by sending e-mail to emily@recmanagement.com. We'd like to know how the economy is impacting your facility—and what measures you're taking to ensure you come out on top!

Until next time,

Emily Tipping
Editorial Director
Recreation Management

Correction Corner

In the February 2009 issue of Recreation Management, we misnamed the architect associated with the Carbondale Recreation & Community Center featured in "Metal of Honor." His name is John Baker, and he is chief architect of J.R. Baker Architects Inc. of Carbondale, Colo. To learn more about his work and services, visit www.jrbakerarchitects.com.

In the October 2008 issue, we neglected to mention the general contractor hired to perform work for the Stonehurst Plantation Community Pool, featured in "Saving Energy Saves Pool." The company is The Chance Building Group Inc., and you can learn more about the services they provide by visiting www.chancebg.com.


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