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New Recreation Projects Get Funding in Oregon

PHOTO: Gilchrist State Forest is Oregon's newest state forest, created in part with money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Photo courtesy Oregon Department of Forestry.
PHOTO: Gilchrist State Forest is Oregon's newest state forest, created in part with money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Photo courtesy Oregon Department of Forestry.
July 11, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. - Gov. John Kitzhaber gave an official "early welcome" this week to new money slated to come into the state from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Slightly more than $43 million is coming to states for grants for local projects to promote conservation and recreation uses nationwide. Oregon gets $650,000.

Kelley Beamer, executive director of the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts, said it's now up to Congress to keep the momentum going for next year, as it ponders the 2015 budget.

"In particular, Sen. (Ron) Wyden has a very influential position as chair of the Senate Finance Committee," Beamer said, "and we're really looking to him to be a strong leader in advocating for full funding for LWCF - and also reauthorization of the program, because it is set to expire."

Beamer said the advantage of LWCF money is its flexibility. It can be used to build pools, parks and trails, or to purchase easements from private landowners such as the one that created the Gilchrist State Forest in 2010. LWCF funds are fees paid by offshore oil and gas developers.

In Oregon, this year's funds will be combined with last year's and awarded later this month by the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission. No grants were given last year; instead, the commission saved the funds until now.

Chris Havel, Parks and Recreation Department associate director, said the grant amounts may not be large, but for 50 years Oregon groups have been able to count on them.

"Oregon runs other grant programs," he said. "So, when you put together federal funding with state funding, with donations and volunteer labor and local budgets, you end up creating a good foundation for solid recreation across the state."

He said the new grants to be awarded for projects in Portland, La Grande, Prineville and Sisters, are proof that LWCF benefits every corner of the state. Since it was created in the 1960s, the fund has brought more than $300 million to Oregon.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR