$3 million available to help R.I. communities improve recreational areas
PROVIDENCE – As part of continued efforts to grow Rhode Island's green economy and promote healthier communities, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) today announced the availability of $3 million in matching grants to help local communities invest in recreational spaces. The grants will be funded by the $35 million Green Economy Bond, approved by voters last year. The grant application period is open through December 1, 2017.
"Rhode Island abounds with beautiful outdoor spaces. And as Rhode Islanders, we know the value of these assets to our economy, health, and way of life," said Governor Gina Raimondo. "It's important we continue to invest. The Green Economy Bond is funding critical improvements to our state and local recreational facilities and allowing us to expand this vibrant part of our economy that attracts tourism and people and businesses to locate in Rhode Island. Our goal is to move swiftly to get this money into the community and get projects underway and completed, so we can continue to create jobs, support our families, and spur economic opportunities."
According to the Outdoor Industry Association, nationally, outdoor recreation generates $887 billion in consumer spending each year. In Rhode Island, outdoor recreation generates $4 billion annually in consumer spending and supports 37,000 jobs. A recent study by the University of Rhode Island found that the state's 22 major recreational facilities alone attract some nine million visits each year, generating over $300 million in consumer spending and supporting more than 3,700 jobs.
Last year, Governor Raimondo took executive action to create the Rhode Island Outdoor Recreation Council, with the goal of exploring and acting on opportunities to grow the state's outdoor recreation economy. The Council issued its report in December, recommending further investments in recreational facilities across the state. Since 1988, DEM has awarded over 500 community recreation grants, investing $70 million across all 39 Rhode Island cities and towns.
"The value and importance of community parks cannot be overstated," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "They beautify our neighborhoods, connect us to each other and with nature, and nurture our health and environment. The work we are doing, together with many partners, to improve these facilities and provide meaningful opportunities for families to be active and enjoy the outdoors matters. And we must keep going. I encourage cities and towns to take advantage of this grant funding made possible by the Green Economy Bond."
Community recreation grant funding – with a maximum of $100,000 for small grants and $300,000 for large grants – requires a 20 percent community match for development projects and a 50 percent match for acquisitions. Projects that promote healthy aging for older adults or include investments in green infrastructure and/or stormwater control are encouraged. Applications will be evaluated and scored by the Rhode Island Recreation Resources Review Committee, consisting of government and non-profit members, using the Open Project Selection Process (OPSP) developed under the 2009 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. Grant awards will be announced in spring 2018. For more information or to apply, visit www.dem.ri.gov/plangrants.
For more information on DEM programs and divisions, visit www.dem.ri.gov. Follow DEM on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM or via Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM).