More than $42 million in grants from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) enabled partners in 338 communities across the country to establish or expand parks, build or refurbish recreational facilities and undertake other projects to enhance outdoor recreation, the National Park Service announced in an annual report on the program.
The grants, funded primarily from oil and gas lease revenues derived from federal lands, helped leverage an additional $48 million in contributions by the partners, according to the 2012 Land and Water Conservation Fund Report.
"For nearly 50 years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has played a vital role in providing outdoor recreational opportunities for the public," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar . "These grants, which include no taxpayer funds and is matched by partners, connect people to the great outdoors while stimulating local economies and supporting jobs in nearby communities. They are a tremendous investment in both our nation's quality of life and in our economy."
Salazar commended President Obama for proposing legislation in the fiscal year 2014 budget that would require mandatory full funding for the LWCF. ThePresident also proposes a phased-in approach to achieve full funding for the LWCF program by 2015, providing $900 million for grants, land acquistion, and other conservation programs.
"The President's proposed budget includes a landmark opportunity to fulfill President Kennedy's vision for this conservation program," added Salazar. "Mandatory, full funding of the LWCF would provide for certainty and longer-term conservation planning that will, in turn, strengthen our communities and economies."
Outdoor recreation is an economic engine for the United States, generating $646 billion in consumer spending and 6.1 million direct jobs each year, according to a report by the Outdoor Industry Association.
"Many people understand the health and social benefits parks provide - improving fitness, enhancing the quality of the environment, and helping families and neighbors connect with one another," said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said. "Parks are also economic drivers, making them valuable community assets. They attract visitors, and their spending supports a variety of local businesses, creates jobs and income for residents and enhances property values."
Congress created the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1965 to meet the nation's growing need for access to close-to-home outdoor recreation. The money for the fund comes not from taxes, but primarily from oil and gas lease revenues derived from federal lands. This helps balance the environmental impacts associated with resource extraction by ensuring that new parks and open spaces are accessible to all Americans.
Grant sponsors must match the federal award by contributing at least 50 percent of a project's funding using local resources and private donations.
Projects started or completed in 2012 ranged from 32 new parks to new walking and biking trails to natural area improvements. Examples of projects that were funded include:
The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation restored the 75-year-old Civilian Conservation Corps Beach House at popular Elmore State Park in Lamoille County. The Beach House serves the many visitors who come to enjoy the swimming beach on Lake Elmore. Other recreation opportunities at the park include campsites and hiking trails. The state matched its $435,751 LWCF development grant using funds from its capital construction program, which was intended to stimulate the Vermont construction economy and echoes the original CCC vision of improving public natural resource lands and putting people to work in times of economic stress.
The city of Rathdrum, Idaho used city funds, impact fees and community donations to match a $117,927 LWCF development grant to develop a brand new 11-acre community park. Majestic Park, which was an instant hit with local residents, currently includes ball fields, a playground and splash pad. Tennis and basketball courts are planned for the future.
The Glenview Park District in Illinois used an acquisition grant to expand an existing park by 12.5 acres. The Grove, part of the estate of visionary horticulturist and educator Dr. John Kennicott, was designated as a national historic landmark in 1976. The LWCF acquisition grant allowed the park district to secure an additional piece of the original estate, expanding the current park to 135.5 acres. The parcel's high quality upland forest and wetlands will also qualify it for Illinois Nature Preserve status.
The Department of Arkansas Heritage will acquire 200 acres of land to create a new natural area, known as the Devil's Eyebrow, that is known for its unique rock formation and statuesque trees. In partnership with states and territories, the National Park Service administers the LWCF State and Local Assistance Program.
The full report and additional program information is available at http://www.nps.gov/lwcf/index.htm