EDITORIAL: Grants that work
Winter comes and goes too quickly for the Winthrop Ice and Sports Rink, despite impressive efforts to keep the ice surface skate-worthy. Without a refrigeration system, the weather is always going to win.
A state program that has benefited the Methow Valley with millions of dollars worth of local projects could help the rink extend its season – and bolster other local efforts to promote recreation and preserve the environment.
Years ago, the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition (WWRC) – a group of nonprofits and public agencies – was formed to support local projects and a state funding mechanism for them, using funds from a variety of sources.
The state Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) was created in 1964 to process grant requests from around the state. The agency administers a dozen grant programs for providing recreation, conserving habitat, preserving farmland, and recovering salmon. The RCO ranks project requests, and sends its recommendations to the Legislature, which makes an appropriation. Legislators will be considering a list of projects this year.
Since the RCO began, it has awarded more than $1.7 billion in grants to nearly 7,500 projects. Grant recipients have contributed more than $950 million in matching resources, making the total investment top $2.6 billion.
RCO grants typically require a local match of up to 50 percent, so the projects have to have a strong community commitment. It’s a good way to leverage funds to the best advantage for communities. Money for the projects does not come from the general operating budget, but rather from capital bonds issued by the state.
The Methow Valley has received, since the early 1990s, more than $77 million in grants for a wide array of local projects, including several that are still in progress. Among the completed projects are the Twisp Park playground, the Wagner Pool, Mack Lloyd Park in Winthrop, and a portion of the Susie Stephens Trail. Also on the list are several state parks projects and wildlife habitat programs by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Current projects include extension of the Susie Stephens Trail, the Twisp Community Trail, and more WDFW works.
This year’s Methow Valley wish list of about $2 million – for proposed projects that are now in the grants process – include a refrigeration system for the ice rink.
Legislators’ support for projects in their districts is crucial. For the Methow, that means Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, Rep. Cary Condotta, and Rep. Brad Hawkins (firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com;firstname.lastname@example.org). Let them know that the Methow Valley community appreciates and will continue to take exemplary advantage of the grants program.
Some of the programs funded by the state grants are relatively low-key and perhaps less noticed, such as habitat conservation and riparian protection. Others are more visible. All of them help make the Methow a better place to live, work and play.