The City of Mount Vernon’s project to build the Skagit Riverwalk, a trail which runs along the Skagit River in the city’s historic downtown, was the top ranked project in the trails category of the very competitive statewide grant program, the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. The city also successfully competed for a second state grant in the Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account program. Together, the two grants provided more than $1.28 million in state funding for the Skagit Riverwalk.
“This project is a great example of what the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program aims to achieve,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, which administers both grant programs. “Using these grants,
Mount Vernon will be able to increase access to the waterfront and provide a great place for its residents to enjoy the great outdoors.”
The Legislature created the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program in 1990 to conserve land before it was developed. The Legislature recognized that the state’s growing population would need more places for outdoor recreation and wildlife and it would be more economical to buy the land early. Today, the program is the largest state funding source for development of local parks and trails, and the preservation of farmland.
The Legislature created the Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account in 1984 to ensure that money generated from shorelines and the bottoms of navigable waterways was used to protect and enhance those lands. The Washington Department of Natural Resources manages the state’s aquatic lands and raises revenue through activities such as leasing waterfront sites and selling harvest rights for geoduck clams. Some of this revenue is designated for grants, which are used to improve and provide public access to the waterways.
The Skagit Riverwalk project was the top scoring project in the trails category of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program in 2010, competing against 24 other projects for funding that year. That same year, the project ranked number 9 of 28 competing for funding in the Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account. This year, the City has applied for a $500,000 grant to build a park along the Skagit Riverwalk. That project has ranked 11 of 44 competing in the local parks category of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. Funding for this year’s grants will be decided by the Legislature in the upcoming session in 2013.
Pete Mayer, a member of the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board, which awards the grants, will present a symbolic, oversized check to the Mount Vernon City Council at its meeting at 6 pm., Wednesday, in the Council Chambers, 1805 Continental Place, Mount Vernon.
The competition for grant funding is high, with projects rated by citizens and professionals on many factors, such as need, how well the project is designed and cost-efficiencies.
“Only the best of the best projects gets funded,” Cottingham said. “Mount Vernon has consistently brought forth outstanding projects. The City of Mount Vernon has been awarded 21 grants since 1997, totaling more than $7.6 million.”
The Recreation and Conservation Funding Board was established in 1964 to finance recreation and conservation projects throughout the state. Information about the agency is available online at www.rco.wa.gov. More information about the grants also are available online at Skagit Riverwalk Trail Phase 2 and Mount Vernon Skagit Riverwalk Park.