Pa. grant funds accessible for out of doors recreation for trails, disc golf

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When the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources awarded a record $90 million in grants to 330 projects across the Commonwealth in September, you may have thought of another project that should also be funded.

If so, you’re in luck.

The agency has created an unprecedented additional round of grants for Fall 2022, but know the October 27 deadline is fast approaching.

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“Pretty much anyone who is normally eligible for our scholarship program is eligible for the supplemental round,” said Tom Ford, director of the Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, in a phone interview. These include counties, municipalities, municipal institutions and non-profit organizations. “We accept all project types. So hiking trails, landscape protection, community parks, all the things that we normally accept and take into account in general.”

Approximately $38 million is available in DCNR Community Conservation Partnerships Program (C2P2) grants to support outdoor recreation and conservation projects and has funded projects in all Pennsylvania counties. About $25 million of that total comes from the Federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). The project size to be submitted is a minimum of $50,000 and a maximum of $5 million.

“Our bread and butter has always been community parks, hiking trails and conservation. And we will certainly continue to invest in these types of projects. We’ve worked hard to streamline our small community program, and small communities are defined as communities across the Commonwealth with a population of 5,000 or fewer,” he said.

In this additional round, the local subsidy was reduced from 50% to 20%. “That is something special in this scholarship round in the fall. This is only possible because of the funding source we use.”

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The demand for parks has increased. “Over the past few years, particularly as the pandemic was at its peak, the importance of community-based recreation has been unparalleled in Commonwealth history, I’d wager. And if we enforce the fact that local park resources, hiking trails and access to outdoor recreation are vital. It’s not just a nice thing, it’s important, it’s imperative and people need it. The $90 million investment we’ve been able to make to rehabilitate and develop community parks and trails and create outdoor recreation opportunities is a very, very positive outcome of what we’ve seen during the pandemic, as people this for their health, sanity and justice needed to come through.”

September’s grant awards will rehabilitate infrastructure and create new opportunities for community park visitors, such as pickleball courts. “It’s just exploding across the country,” Ford said of the growing interest in the game of pickleball. He sees tennis courts being converted into pickleball courts. Annual funding supports projects that directly impact Pennsylvania communities, including parks, playgrounds, hiking trails, nature preserves, boat docks, swimming pools, ball fields, and the purchase of private land for public use.

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If you are not admitted in the fall round, there is another opportunity to reapply in the spring.

If you are unsure how to apply for government grants, the DCNR is offering a free virtual workshop that will cover all the details you will need for future grant rounds, including the spring application period of January 17th to April 5th .

The free online workshop will take place on November 3rd from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Ford said anyone interested in applying for office grants in 2023 is urged to participate.

Pre-registration is required to ensure attendees receive the materials they need. To register, visit events.dcnr.pa.gov.

Videos of workshop presentations will be made available on the DCNR YouTube channel for those unable to attend.

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Visit dcnr.pa.gov and click on the grants tab for application details, answers to frequently asked questions, and contact information for regional staff.

Take the time to research grant opportunities as they are a great way to improve public land in your area.

Brian Whipkey is the outdoor columnist for USA TODAY Network’s websites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at [email protected] and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter via email on your website home page using your login name. Follow him on social media @whipkeyoutdoors.