Volunteers needed to evaluate grants for parks, trails, habitat —

Volunteers needed to evaluate grants for parks, trails, habitat

By Jerre Redecker
The Olympian

Citizens can help decide which parks and trails should be funded and which habitats should be conserved by volunteering to evaluate federal and state grant proposals.

Programs run the gamut from aquatic lands and parks and trails preservation to farmland preservation and accessibility.

“These grants are the largest state funding sources for parks and trails and wildlife habitats and farms,” said Susan Zemek, spokeswoman for the state Recreation and Conservation Office. “Many of these projects would not happen without these grants from the state and federal government.”

Most recipients are required to have a percentage of matching funds. For cities and counties, those funds come from voter-approved levies or their own tax base.

The decision process takes about a week in the summer, Zemek said. Volunteers spend about 40 hours evaluating as many as 100 grant proposals.

Paul Simmons, director of the Olympia Parks, Arts, and Recreation Department, was a volunteer for the last round of grant proposals, and will continue this summer.

“It’s an incredible program and a great opportunity to make the state a better place to live,” Simmons said. In the past 20 years, Olympia has received about $6 million from the program, Simmons said, helping acquire and/or develop the Heritage Park Fountain, West Bay Park and Percival Landing, among other projects.

“The people on these committees will be determining the best projects for their communities,” Simmons said.

Examples of volunteer opportunities include:

One local government and two citizen volunteers for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program’s Local Parks category, which provides grants to acquire, develop and renovate local parks.

One volunteer for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program’s Trails category, which provides grants to buy, develop and renovate nonmotorized trails. The volunteer must have an interest in nonmotorized, regional trails.

One local government volunteer for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program’s State Parks category, which provides funding to buy and develop state parks. The volunteer should have a statewide perspective on parks and recreation.

Read the complete story at The Olympian
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