Governor McKee, Lt. Governor Matos, DEM Announce Awardees of Over $four Million in Grants for Native Recreation Tasks Throughout Rhode Island

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RHODE ISLAND, May 18 — PROVIDENCE, RI — Gov. Dan McKee, Lt. Cmdr. Governor Sabina Matos and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) today announced the award of $4.1 million in matching grants to 13 municipalities for the development or renovation of local outdoor recreational facilities. The rec grant program has historically been the most popular DEM program with three times as many applications for funding (53) as projects receiving funding this funding cycle.

The grants will fund 16 projects across the state, including new athletic fields, playgrounds, a splash park, dog park, kayak/canoe launch, pump track, hiking trails, basketball, tennis and pickleball courts, and various site improvements.

Since the inception of Earth Day in 1970, efforts to improve air and water quality, clean up contaminated land, preserve open spaces, and enhance recreational opportunities have greatly improved the quality of life for Rhode Island residents. Over the past five decades, nearly 50,000 acres of land have been protected and nearly $89 million in grants invested in over 550 recreation projects in all 39 cities and towns of Rhode Island. These projects are funded by green bonds presented to the Rhode Island General Assembly as part of the governor’s proposed budget and, if included in the approved budget, presented to voters as a referendum question on the ballot every two years. Historically, these measures are passed overwhelmingly, with the 2021 green bond receiving nearly 80 percent of the vote nationwide.

“Investing in recreational facilities binds our communities together and is essential to both physical and mental health and well-being,” Gov. McKee said. “For that reason, I have included a budget article in my fiscal 2023 budget proposing a $38 million green economy and clean water bond that will capitalize on future spending on local recovery. Providing the means to ensure everyone has the opportunity to connect with nature and exercise is central to our quality of life.”

“Of the many benefits that come from providing quality recreational facilities, I want to focus on those that nurture our children,” said Lt. Governor Matos. “Playing outdoors is vital to child development. It improves mood and focus, reduces screen time and stress levels, and promotes sleep. Parks and playgrounds should and can be levellers, where children from disadvantaged backgrounds have the same access to fun as children from better-off families have the same economic circumstances. The grants we are announcing today ensure that will happen.”

“The COVID pandemic has highlighted the importance of public recreation areas and open spaces to Rhode Island residents,” said Terry Gray, director of DEM Mission and Good for Health. When people have fun outside, they appreciate how beautiful and important our environment is, and it helps develop our next generation of environmentalists. We are excited to support communities across Rhode Island to improve and expand their recreational facilities through these grants.”

Rhode Island’s outdoor recreation industry is an important part of our state’s economy, generating $2.4 billion in consumer spending and supporting 24,000 local jobs, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. As part of a larger network of recreational opportunities across the country, community amenities play an important role in beautifying communities, supporting public health, enhancing climate resilience and promoting a cleaner environment.

The grants, which require a community match and range from $72,000 to $400,000, will be funded from proceeds of the 2021 Beach, Clean Water and Green Bond. Categories include large grants of $100,000 to $400,000 each and small grants of up to $100,000 each for lower cost projects. State grants are supplemented with local funds to generate over $5 million to improve recreational projects throughout Rhode Island.

Applications were reviewed and evaluated by the Rhode Island Recreation Resources Review Committee, made up of state and non-profit members, using the open project selection process developed under the 2019 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. This is one of the Green Space grants DEM is offering to local communities; other grant funds support local open spaces and recreational trails.

Director Gray pointed out that the Green Bond funded outdoor recreation grant program is the most popular of all grant programs at DEM. DEM has received 53 applications for this round, totaling over $14 million, but is able to fund less than a third of the projects that apply for grants.

“While we celebrate the projects that have received grants, we know how disappointing it is not to receive that funding,” Gray said. “This is a very popular grant program and is always oversubscribed. Gov. McKee has proposed a green bond in the budget that would include increased funding for these valuable investments in our communities. This funding will help us meet demand in this hugely popular program going forward. We encourage communities to keep an eye out for future program announcements and to join DEM for application workshops and other opportunities to sharpen the descriptions of their great projects.”

The program offers funding in three categories: small development grants with grants of up to $100,000, large development grants with grants of up to $400,000, and acquisition funds supporting the acquisition of real estate for permanent outdoor recreation with grants of up to $400,000.

Smaller grants were awarded to the following projects:

– Barrington: Chianese Pickleball Courts, $80,000 Convert Chianese Field into four permanent pickleball courts, with a new playing surface, fences, and permanent pickleball posts and nets.

– Central Falls: Louis C. Yip Soccer Field Improvements, $80,000 Yip Soccer Field improvements including new scoreboard, storage facilities, benches, picnic tables, bike racks and trash cans.

– Cumberland: Diamond Hill Pump Track Improvements, $100,000 improvement to existing pump track areas, creation of obstacle course, lawn renovation, drainage improvements, accessible path, benches and bike racks.

– East Greenwich: Academy Field Improvements, $100,000 improvements to Academy Field including new pickleball courts, shade structure, accessible walkway, benches and accessible parking lot.

– North Providence: Westcott Park Kayak Launch, $100,000 New canoe/kayak launch on the Woonasquatucket River, trail and parking lot improvements.

– Richmond: Richmond Dog Park, $71,580 New dog park near the Richmond Heritage Trail with fences, parking, gazebo and seating.

– Smithfield: Deerfield Park Splash Pad, $100,000 New splash pad between two existing playgrounds.

Major grants were awarded to the following projects:

– Central Falls: Jenks Park Playground Improvements, $400,000 Playground improvements including new equipment, fixtures, lighting and landscaping.

– Cranston: Knightsville Park Revitalization, $400,000 Revitalization of a park in the Knightsville neighborhood with new paving, pavilion, war memorial relocation, bocce ball lanes, fountains, benches, flagpole, irrigation and landscaping.

– East Greenwich: Eldridge Park Improvements, $400,000 redevelopment of Eldredge Park with a new accessible bypass path, basketball and ball field reconstruction, new outdoor pavilion, benches and landscaping.

– East Providence: Kent Heights Recreation Facility Renovation, $400,000 Kent Heights Recreation Facility Renovation, including renewal of basketball and tennis courts, repair of existing sidewalks, renewal/grading of existing multi-purpose athletic field, new futsal pitch, accessible sidewalk and Playground equipment, landscaping benches and bike racks.

– North Providence: Coletti Athletic Complex, $400,000 Development of approximately 5 acres of Coletti property with a multipurpose athletic field, hiking trails and green space.

– Providence: Roger Williams Park Boardwalk and Fishing/Boating Pier, $400,000 New elevated boardwalk culminating in a boat and fishing dock over Cunliff Pond from Temple to Music to existing boat ramp, additional accessible parking, benches, lighting and interpretive signage .

– Warwick: Apponaug Recreation Complex Improvements, $320,000 Renovation of existing playground with new equipment, accessible pavement, improved loop paths, accessible parking, new stair handrails, bleachers, benches, tables, shade trees, signage and safety netting for little league files.

– West Warwick: Crompton Playground and Stephen Clarke Recreation Area, $400,000 Renovate and expand existing playground to improve accessibility and add multi-purpose pickleball and basketball courts, bocce alley, shaded picnic patio and outdoor multimedia area, new accessible fitness trail loop, renovated open lawn and picnic area, landscaping and low impact stormwater treatment areas added.

A grant was awarded for the following project:

– Woonsocket: Acquisition for Cass Park Expansion, $312,500 Acquisition of 1.37 acres adjacent to Silvestri Pond for improvements to the Dionne Track access road at Cass Park.

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