• by: Jennifer McMinn
  • January 19, 2023

The Great American Outdoors Act - A Great Way to Fund Park & Recreation Infrastructure

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Program is a matching assistance program for state and local public outdoor recreation projects to acquire lands and develop and/or renovate outdoor recreation facilities. It was passed by Congress in 1965 and permanently reauthorized in March 2019. LWCF funds are appropriated by Congress to the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Parks Service (NPS), and NPS allocates the funds through state agencies as a grant program to state and local governments.

Projects are eligible to receive up to 50 percent of their funding from the LWCF; the rest must come from state and local project sponsors. Money is allotted to states using an established formula: a portion of the money is divided equally among all states and territories, and the remainder is allocated based on needs (partly determined by state population). Local governments within the states participate as “subrecipients” with the state retaining primary grant compliance responsibility. The allocation may be divided between Department of Natural Resources’ projects and local government park projects and varies from state to state.

To be eligible for LWCF assistance for acquisition and development/redevelopment grants proposed projects must align to a state’s SCORP. Each State prepares a Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) and updates it at least once every five years. A SCORP evaluates the demand and supply of public outdoor recreation resources throughout a State; identifies priorities for acquiring, developing, and protecting all types of outdoor recreation resources; and assures ongoing opportunities for local units of government and private citizens to take part in the Statewide outdoor recreation plan.

In addition to the traditional state grant program, which is allocated based on formulas, a competitive state grant program has been in place since FY2014. The Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) Program is funded through the LWCF Program. ORLP is a nationally competitive grant program that delivers funding to urban areas – jurisdictions of at least 50,000 people – with priority given to projects located in economically disadvantaged areas that lack outdoor recreation opportunities. These awards help under resourced communities create new outdoor recreation spaces, reinvigorate existing parks, and form connections between people and the outdoors. Over $45 million in ORLP grants have been awarded to 50 communities to improve close-to-home access to the outdoors.

To learn more about LWCF funding and find your state’s contact, go to www.playcore.com/lwcf.

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