Providence RI – Governor Lincoln D. Chafee and Janet Coit, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), today awarded $6.3 million in open space recreational development matching grants for 50 projects in 26 communities throughout the state. These grants will fund many projects among them: new fields for sports such as softball, soccer and lacrosse fields, as well as basketball, tennis and tennis courts; skate parks; open air and camp pavilions; picnic shelters; nature trails and walkways; restrooms; and various site improvements.
"From Burrillville to New Shoreham, these grants will allow local communities to invest in our outdoor recreational assets, as well as have the opportunity to upgrade facilities and create local jobs." Governor Chafee said. "Great parks encourage people to get outside, be active and get healthy. They also showcase the benefits of living in our communities."
President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed said, "These grants are an investment by the state and municipalities to improve recreational opportunities in communities throughout the state. They represent a true partnership, with voter-approved state funds being combined with local support for projects that will help residents enjoy parks and recreational areas throughout Rhode Island."
"The House is focusing a great deal of attention this session on economic development, and these grants are an essential component of those efforts. To attract businesses and entrepreneurs to invest in our state, we also must make certain that we offer outdoor recreational activities that people enjoy," House Major Leader John J. DeSimone said. "These state grants provide this important funding."
Throughout the years, DEM's state recreational development, open space and farmland grant programs have resulted in the protection of hundreds of worthwhile projects – places used by residents and tourists alike for outdoor recreation – and contributed to the economic health of the state. Rhode Island's natural resources continue to be powerful drivers for economic development and tourism and sources of great pride for its residents.
These natural assets play a big role in the state's tourist economy by providing opportunities for the public to camp, fish, hunt, hike, and enjoy the great outdoors, and at the same time bring revenue to the local economy. Residents and tourists spend over $360 million annually on wildlife recreation in Rhode Island including recreation, trip and equipment-related expenditures for fishing, hunting, and wildlife-watching activities, according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service's National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (2011).
All of the grants have been awarded from state funds from the Rhode Island Open Space Bond Authorization of 2012.
"These grants will provide new and expanded recreation facilities in neighborhoods throughout the state and generate jobs in the construction and building trades," DEM Director Janet Coit said. "The tennis and basketball courts, athletic fields, walking paths, locker rooms and playgrounds funded through this program will help enhance the quality of life for Rhode Islanders, promote healthier communities, and stimulate our state's economy."
About 50 percent of funding will be used to acquire, develop or renovate outdoor recreation facilities. The state grants will be matched by local bond funds and federal grants to generate $15.6 million in recreational project improvements throughout Rhode Island.
In addition, the grants will offer up to 90 percent funding, with a maximum grant award of $100,000, to municipalities to restore, renovate or develop passive and/or historic parks. The state grants will be matched by local bond funds and federal grants to generate $2.8 million in passive and historic park development/recreation projects across the state.
These grants will enhance the state's efforts to preserve open space by establishing a diverse group of recreational facilities. The grants provide $719,925 in funding for 16 small recreation development projects including resurfacing of tennis courts and beach improvements at Notte Park in North Providence; rehabilitation of the hockey rink at City Park in Warwick; and park improvements at Langworthy Field in Hopkinton.
The grants will also provide about $4.12 million in funding for 16 large urban and suburban projects including installation of restrooms, locker rooms and support facilities at Cranston Stadium in Cranston; construction of a track, synthetic field, lights and restrooms at the community athletic complex in Narragansett; and new softball, soccer and lacrosse fields at Mount Hope in Bristol.
Also awarded was nearly $1.49 million in passive/historic park grants to 17 communities for projects including development of an open air pavilion at Slater Park in Pawtucket; new walkways, benches and lighting at the Library/Woods Pond in Barrington; and rehabilitation of the bandstand structure at Roger Williams Park in Providence.
DEM is administering the grants. For more information, call Gail Mastrati 222-4700, ext. 2402, or visit, http://www.dem.ri.gov.