State board awards money for recreation, conservation projects
Projects to upgrade ball fields, to develop places for people to launch their boats for fishing and recreation, and to conserve large swaths of pristine wildlife habitat were some of the more than 230 projects awarded grants, including two in Klickitat County, by the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board. The board awarded more than $67.5 million in grants to 234 recreation and conservation projects in 35 of the state’s 39 counties. The grants will be used to build parks and trails and protect important farmland and wildlife habitat. While a few of the grants were awarded in March and May, the majority were awarded at the end of June. “These grants feed right into local communities that have applied for funds to complete long-sought local projects,” said Bill Chapman, chair of the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board. “They create jobs both in the construction of new parks and trails, and through tourism. They help ensure that Washington remains a top notch destination for Washington taxpayers and other visitors who want to hike, hunt, bike, fish and just enjoy the great outdoors.” In all, the board received grant applications for more than 400 projects requesting about $200 million. The grants were reviewed and ranked during the past year. Panels of experts evaluated projects against dozens of different criteria, ranging from the need for a project, to its cost-effectiveness, to how well it was designed, to the level of demonstrated community support. “The grants are competitive,” Chapman said. “There’s a tremendous need out there and we’re only able to fund about half of the projects requested each year. So the competitive process helps make sure we are funding only the best of the best projects.” Grant recipients must provide their own matching funds, donated labor and other costs. Grant applicants are investing more than $48 million in matching resources, stretching the state’s limited dollars even further. Klickitat County received two grants totaling $831,357. The first was awarded to the Columbia Land Trust in the amount of $685,857 for preserving Trout Lake Valley Farms. The Land Trust will use the grant to buy a voluntary land preservation agreement to prohibit further development of 215.5 acres of the Schmid farm in Trout Lake. Of the 7,500 acres of land zoned for farmland, more than 300 homes could be built. The Schmid farm produces alfalfa, used to feed its dairy cows. The Schmids are fourth generation Trout Lake farmers, and one of the first organic dairy farmers in the Pacific Northwest. The landowner will contribute $685,857 in donated property interest. This grant was from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. The second grant was awarded to the state DNR in the amount of $145,500 to restore Trout Lake Meadow. The DNR will use this grant to restore the hydrology and vegetation of the meadows at Trout Lake Natural Area Preserve, with the goal of improving habitat for the Oregon spotted frog, sandhill crane, pale blue-eyed grass, and other wetlands species. The Trout Lake wetlands system contains the second largest of the four known Washington populations of the Oregon spotted frog, a state sensitive species. Sandhill cranes, a state endangered species, use this site as a staging area and potential nesting area. The department will remove .37 mile of old irrigation ditches in the east meadow area and take out the old road on the western part of the preserve. The department also will control weeds on 25 acres, allowing native species to re-establish in the meadow. The ditches and old road will be planted with native plants. This grant is from the state Wildlife and Recreation Program.