THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON RECREATION AND CONSERVATION OFFICE
The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board today announced the award of nearly $116 million in grants to a suite of 276 projects that build and maintain outdoor recreation facilities and conserve wildlife habitat and working farms and forests around the state.
“These grants are important to strengthening Washington’s economy and retaining our way of life,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “They will build parks, trails and boating facilities, and conserve working farms and critical wildlife habitat – all the things that make Washington a great place to live, work and operate a business.”
With the Legislature’s recent approval of the capital budget, grants are being distributed to cities, counties, state and federal agencies and nonprofit organizations for projects in 35 of the state’s 39 counties.
The grants were awarded through nine different grant programs. Revenue comes from a mix of federal grants, the sale of state bonds, gas taxes and user fees.
Click below to see descriptions of each grant:
A recent study1 noted that outdoor recreation is a huge part of the state’s economy with $21.6 billion spent in Washington on recreation trips and equipment annually, including $3.4 billion by out-of-state visitors. Outdoor recreation also supports nearly 200,000 jobs, rivaling the technology and aerospace industries.
“Investments in outdoor recreation pay many dividends,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, which administers these grants. “Not only do these grants bring money and jobs to the economy, but spending time outdoors improves the mental and physical health of both kids and adults, and that saves money down the line in costs for health care. Equally important, preserving and protecting natural areas for us to enjoy conserves habitat for fish and other animals, protects clean air and water and reduces pollution.”
All of the funded projects were evaluated and ranked through a competitive process in which citizen committees with expertise in recreation and conservation issues evaluated the grant proposals and created ranked lists for the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board, and in some cases, the Governor and state Legislature to consider for funding.
“Overall, we have funding only for about half the demand,” Cottingham said. “The process ensures that the state invests strategically in only the best projects.”
The office accepted applications for 529 projects, requesting nearly $239 million. Most of the grant programs require grant applicants to contribute matching resources. This year, the matching resources totaled nearly $107 million, nearly doubling the state’s investment in Washington’s outdoor recreation and conservation efforts.
Of the nearly $116 million in grants, more than $38 million goes to build or improve parks, more than $19 million goes each to improve facilities for boaters and to maintain trails, nearly $7 million goes to conserve working farms and another $31 million goes to protect important wildlife habitat. New this year were grants to protect commercial forests: Two projects were awarded funding for $700,000.
“Our population is growing, and prices are going nowhere but up,” Cottingham said. “The best time to invest in outdoor recreation is right now. The more we invest now, the more we save in the future, and the more future generations will benefit.”
Tania Briceno and Greg Schundler,“Economic Analysis of Outdoor Recreation in Washington State,” Earth Economics, Tacoma, WA, January 2015, pp. ix-xi.