OLYMPIA–The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board has changed the way it evaluates grant proposals with the goal of improving opportunities for outdoor recreation in communities with fewer parks and less open space.
The board, which is the largest state funder of outdoor recreation facilities, changed the way it looks at need, scope, design and project engagement for project proposals in its six popular grant programs.
“We know that spending time outside improves people’s mental and physical health, academic performance and social skills,” said Megan Duffy, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, which supports the funding board. “Everyone should be able to experience those benefits no matter where they live. These criteria changes are a first step in helping to ensure equitable access to parks, trails and other outdoor facilities.”
The changes were proposed after the office completed an equity review of its grant programs and the board updated the State Recreation and Conservation Plan. The equity review revealed that more grants were given to communities with existing park and conservation lands and that grant programs underinvested in communities of color, especially those with low park and green space acreage. The state recreation plan defined its top priority as providing meaningful access to outdoor recreation for all.
Grant Programs Affected
The changes are in the following grant programs: Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account, Land and Water Conservation Fund, Youth Athletic Facilities, and the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program’s Local Parks, Trails, and Water Access Categories.
- Project Need is evaluated in two parts: (1) by data such as a community’s social and economic conditions, health outcomes and amount of parks or natural areas, and (2) by a subjective description of a community’s need for the project.
- Project Scope and Design are evaluated by how well a project will address the need and include questions about site conditions, recreational opportunities provided, designs and constraints, and cost estimates.
- Project engagement is evaluated by how well the applicant engaged the community in developing the project, how that involvement affected the project’s design and partnerships that will be contributing to the project.
A detailed description of changes can be found on the RCO website. RCO will begin accepting grant applications for these programs Feb. 14.
Feb. 14 Webinars
RCO will provide information on the grant programs at the webinars below.
- 9 a.m. park and trail grant programs Register for the webinar
- 1 p.m. Land and Water Conservation Fund Register for the webinar