The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) is accepting grant applications beginning August 10 for the provision of outdoor educational and recreational programs for children, and for the construction and maintenance of hiking trails, boating facilities, and firearm and archery ranges. The RCO also offers free online workshops to present these funding opportunities and explain the application requirements. Grants for boat rides, hiking trails, and shooting ranges are the largest source of government funding for many of these outdoor recreation experiences. However, this is the only way to apply for these scholarships until 2024.
A new program introduced this year is the Outdoor Learning Grants program. Typical projects related to this scholarship include: Practical Environmental Education and Nature-Based Learning Experiences, Learning about Habitat Restoration and Conservation Activities, Educational Activities in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) and many others. Ineligible projects include: land acquisition, facility construction and programs that do not directly involve an outdoor education program for youth.
Programs should focus on outdoor education aligned with Washington State learning standards and the development of social and emotional learning skills. The age range for these programs is kindergarten through twelfth grade. These programs must develop and support educational experiences for students in Washington public schools. The Outdoor Learning Grants are open to federally recognized Native American tribes and outdoor education providers such as local governments, qualifying nonprofit organizations and government agencies.
The RCO jointly administers the scholarship program with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and scholarship awards for the 2022-23 school year will take place in early October. This new program complements the scholarships offered through the No Child Left Inside program, which is administered jointly with the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. “We are very excited to be able to offer all of these scholarships, but especially the scholarships to get kids outside,” said Megan Duffy, Director of RCO. “Spending time outdoors has so many benefits. We know it can reduce stress, improve mental and physical health, and even improve children’s academic performance. These grants help ensure children have the opportunity to spend time outdoors and receive these benefits.”
RCO also accepts grant applications for other projects including: boating, hiking trails, and firearms and archery ranges. Boat grants may consist of the purchase, development, or refurbishment of facilities for power boats and other watercraft, including launch pads, guest berths, and support facilities. “This type of grant covers anything related to boating or watercraft activity, whether it’s restoring launch sites or creating new launch sites,” said Marguerite Austin, director of the Recreation and Conservation Grants Section. Registration for the Boat Grants webinar will take place on August 10th at 10am
For trail-related grants, projects may include: development, rehabilitation, and maintenance of trails that provide a backcountry experience. Funding can be used for educational and enforcement programs that encourage environmentally responsible use of the trails and help minimize conflict between visitors
Firearms and archery ranges are the last promotion on offer. Land purchase, development and renovation of firearms ranges, and archery training and practice facilities are some of the projects covered under the grant. Other projects could include a skeet shooting range, the development of a new field archery course, or the organization of a firearms safety and target practice event. “We will work closely with firearms organizations, safety regulators and professionals on firearms and archery grants,” Austin said.
RCO will be offering another new scholarship program in the fall, with applications due in October. The Recreational Access Planning Grants will provide funding for planning projects in communities that do not have adequate access to outdoor recreational opportunities. Grants can be used to support planning, community engagement and collaboration between local governments, community-based organizations and residents to define outdoor recreation needs, prioritize investments to meet those needs, and support on-site projects for RCO and prepare other financing opportunities.
Grant applications are due September 1 for the Outdoor Learning Program and November 1 for the other programs. For more information on grant requirements, visit the RCO website: RCO Home Page – RCO home page of the Recreation and Conservation Office (wa.gov)