OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee will be the featured speaker at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) on Wednesday in Olympia.
RCO manages federal and state funding to create parks, trails and other recreation areas, conserve important wildlife habitat and working farms and bring salmon back from the brink of extinction. Some of Washington’s most iconic parks, trails and public open spaces were acquired or developed with funding from RCO.
The event will begin at 3 p.m., with the Governor speaking at 3:30 p.m., Wednesday, in the State Reception Room, Legislative Building, 416 Sid Snyder Ave., Olympia. The public is invited to attend.
“What makes RCO unique is that it was created by a citizen’s initiative,” said Kaleen Cottingham, RCO’s director. “It was formed because citizens wanted to see the money generated from boating put back into services for boaters and other recreational groups. And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing for the past half century.”
RCO has grown from a small agency administering three grant programs to one that handles 15 grant programs, 5 boards and offices, and the fourth largest capital budget of any state agency.
RCO grants have been given to projects in all of Washington’s 39 counties, including some of the state’s more well-known recreation areas, such as Seattle’s Gas Works, Green Lake and Discovery Parks; Olympia’s Percival Landing boardwalk and Chehalis-Western Trail; Spokane’s Centennial Trail; Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park, Bremerton’s waterfront boardwalk; Richland’s Horn Rapids Off-road Vehicle park; Bellingham’s Boulevard Park and downtown waterfront, and Yakima’s Kiwanis Park and Greenway Trail.
All told, RCO has more invested in more than 8,500 projects around the state, awarded nearly $2 billion in grants and contracts and leveraged another $1 billion from grant recipients for a more than $3 billion investment in Washington’s great outdoors.
“This kind of investment in Washington’s quality of life is really unique in the nation,” Cottingham said. “Most other states don’t have a comparable state agency. By consolidating these recreation, conservation and restoration grant programs in one agency, Washington is able to run fair, non-political evaluation processes that ensures the best projects are funded.”
The investments are made in rural areas and the state’s most populous cities.
“The combination of these grant programs helps ensure that Washington is conserving undeveloped land for recreation today and tomorrow. We are protecting working farms so the state’s rich agricultural history will be preserved for future farmers. We’re conserving wildlife habitat, so that salmon and other animals always will have a place in Washington and we are supporting all the families that rely on the great outdoors for their livelihoods. These grant investments are why Washington remains a great place to live, work and play.”
For more information on the agency or its grant programs, visit the Web site: www.rco.wa.gov.