Federal program funds 4 local parks in Washington, needs congressional reauthorization

July 18, 2014

The state of Washington is set to receive nearly $1 million for four local park and trail projects from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Last week, US Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced the allocation of $43 million in local parks grants that will be shared among all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The LWCF does not use taxpayer dollars but instead reinvests a small portion of royalties paid from energy exploration in public waters in parks, trails, wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation opportunities. Over 50 years, the LWCF has funded outdoor recreation and conservation projects in nearly every county nationwide.

“In Washington state, we know better than most that it’s absolutely critical to protect our natural resources, not only for the environment, but also for our economy,” said Senator Patty Murray. “That’s why I’ve been a longtime supporter of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and this funding will support projects across Washington that protect the environment and improve access to the great outdoors.”

The Washington projects that will receive funding include:

  • North Creek Forest – The City of Bothell will receive $43,030 to purchase 22 acres of the 64-acre urban North Creek Forest, the last remaining mature forest in the city that will serve as a learning laboratory for 9,000 students within walking distance.
  • Peninsula at Point Defiance – The Metropolitan Park District of Tacoma will receive $500,000 to develop the Peninsula at Point Defiance Park, unlocking 11 acres never before available to the public, including nearly a half-mile of shoreline. The park district will build a fishing pier over one of the most popular deep water fishing areas in the Puget Sound, public restrooms, paved walking trails and parking.
  • Torguson Park – The City of North Bend will receive $250,000 to build a plaza and loop trail in Torguson Park, unifying the city’s main athletic fields by providing a central gathering space, a trail that people can use for exercise, and an accessible route of travel for people of all abilities.
  • Trillium Community Forest – Island County will receive partial funding for their request of $50,000 to purchase some of the 670-acre Trillium Community Forest, the largest contiguous forestland in the county, for a new county park on Whidbey Island.

“For almost fifty years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped preserve what makes living in the Pacific Northwest so special,” said Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01). “I’m proud to support this program, and am pleased that these funds will ensure the preservation of Bothell’s North Creek Forest and enable future generations to learn from and enjoy the environment that surrounds us in Washington state.”

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund helps us protect and enhance outdoor spaces that draw visitors and boost local businesses,” said Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06). “That’s why I’m excited Tacoma secured fund investments to make the Peninsula at Point Defiance Park an even more impressive place to visit. Outdoor recreation plays a big role in our region’s economy and I will continue to support this fund so it can help protect the natural landscape that furthers job opportunities and provides areas to spend time with family and friends.”

Eight projects from Fiscal Year 2014 will go unfunded including the renovation of a popular fishing pier in Edmonds and the development of a new park on the Tahuya peninsula. The LWCF is authorized to invest $900 million each year into outdoor recreation and conservation projects, but has been consistently underfunded leaving a large backlog of unmet need.

Congress is currently discussing funding levels for the LWCF for Fiscal Year 2015. In Washington state, 19 local park projects are proposed this year as well as two working forest projects and six national park and wildlife refuge projects. The program will sunset in 2015 without Congressional action to reauthorize it.

“These projects are essential investments in communities to get kids outside and enhance quality of life,” said Joanna Grist, executive director of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, a nonprofit that promotes the benefits of public funding for the outdoors. “We are grateful to Washington’s House and Senate leaders for working to address these pressing current needs and to reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund in this, its 50th anniversary year.”

What is LWCF?
Created by Congress in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund is the nation’s premier federal grant program for conservation and outdoor recreation. The program uses no taxpayer dollars. Instead, $900 million in offshore oil and gas lease revenue is meant to be invested in parks and outdoor recreation opportunities each year. However, a majority of LWCF funds continue to be diverted for unrelated purposes.

About the Coalition
The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition is a non-profit citizens group founded in a historic bipartisan effort by former Governors Dan Evans and Mike Lowry. The Coalition promotes public funding for Washington’s outdoors through the state Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program and the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. Members consist of a diverse group of over 280 organizations representing conservation, business, recreation, hunting, fishing, farming and community interests. The breadth and diversity of the Coalition is the key to its success — no one member could secure such a high level of funding for parks and habitat on its own.