Dwindling Dollars Send Kitsap Parks Staff Looking for Grants —

Dwindling Dollars Send Kitsap Parks Staff Looking for Grants

Chris Henry, The Kitsap Sun, June 23, 2008

Kitsap County owns nearly 6,000 acres of park land, much of it undeveloped. And citizens of a growing Kitsap are clamoring for more recreational opportunities, even as economic uncertainty has slapped the county’s Parks and Recreation budget with the dubious “discretionary funding” label — meaning it’s the first to get cut.

Parks and Recreation staff have had to find creative ways to advance capital projects on the public’s — and the county’s — wish list. By the end of the summer, they will have applied for more than $3.5 million in grant funding from the state’s Recreation and Conservation Office. By September, they will know where they stand in relation to the hundreds of other jurisdictions competing for state recreation dollars. By March 2009 — if all goes well — at least some of those dollars will start flowing in.

On Monday, the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners signed resolutions in support of the grant applications.

Applying for recreation grants is nothing new, but the county has taken a more studied approach this year, said Chip Faver, Parks and Recreation director. Parks staff met early in the year with state officials, checking out potential grant funding and picking their brains about what makes a grant application more likely to succeed.

The staff regrouped to look at the long list of potential projects and prioritized them based numerous factors, not the least of which was the fiscal equivalent of sex appeal.

“The term this time was, ‘How sexy will this grant be?’” Faver said.

A good example of a grant voted most likely to succeed is the county’s West Peninsula Regional Trail Plan application. The plan includes hiking, equestrian and off-road trails in portions of Kitsap and Mason counties, including in Tahuya and Green Mountain state forests.

According to Faver, the state will appreciate that Kitsap has partners with Mason County, the city of Bremerton, the state Department of Natural Resources and the Navy.

The two-part planning grant totals $479,075. The county, with the help of its partners, will provide 40 percent — or $170,025. Much of it will be in the form of volunteer labor and other “in-kind,” or non-cash, resources. Also a plus in the state’s eyes is the multi-use aspect, Faver said. Demonstrated need and protection of threatened land are other factors the state considers.

Parks and Recreation staff determined that planning for development is one way to ensure use of development funds when they do become available.

“When you don’t have money, the best thing to do is plan for when you do have money,” Faver said.

In developing its current grant strategy, Faver and his staff tried to balance acquisition of land, planning for development and execution of projects. They also tried to balance applications to distribute funding to all areas of the county.

Other parks slated for improvement through current grant applications include South Kitsap Regional Park (formerly known as South Kitsap Community Park) and the Olalla boat launch in South Kitsap; Norwegian Point Park, Carpenter Creek watershed and North Kitsap Heritage park in North Kitsap; and Anna Smith Park and the Clear Creek Trail in Central Kitsap.

The county is also trying acquire farm land in Central Kitsap that could someday support a creamery for locally produced dairy products.

Despite its aggressive grant strategy, Kitsap County will be up against other entities equally hungry for parks grants. The portion of the state budget devoted to recreation funding is based on recommendations from the Legislature, and it, too, is strained by budget pressure from all angles of the state’s economy.

“Everybody wants those dollars,” said Matt Keough, county parks planning project manager. “The competition’s as fierce as it’s ever been. The money’s tight and its only going to get tighter.”

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