08/15/08 — Grants will help spruce up area parks

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Grants will help spruce up area parks

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on August 15, 2008 1:32 PM

Three local governments will be able to vastly improve the condition of their area parks thanks to a little help from the North Carolina State Parks and Recreation trust fund.

Kenansville was awarded $267,177 for general Kenan Park improvements, while Smithfield received $451,950 for its Smithfield Recreation and Aquatic Center project. Rounding out the regional locales that were awarded matching grants by the state, Selma will receive $291,000 for the Richard Harrison Recreational Center.

The awarded amounts are each a part of $3.6 million grant that the N.C. State Parks and Recreation Service dished out this week.

"The (parks and recreation) trust fund has been successful in making local parks and recreational opportunities available from the mountains to the coast," said Bill Ross, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. "Sound environmental stewardship, education and economic have helped create these outstanding resources."

The three local projects that will be funded stood out among 89 grant applications from across the state, which requested a total of $27 million.

The selection process started with independent site approval.

"We have a grant staff that looks at each site and determines whether or not that particular site meets the criteria," said Charlie Peek, of the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation. "Once sites are approved, they are scored and ranked before being sent to the Trust Fund Committee which selects which projects to fund."

The applications are looked at most closely based on need, but several other factors play into which projects get Governor Mike Easley's final approval.

"The Trust Fund Committee also looks at geographic area, to make sure the money is being spread around the state," said Peek. "And they also consider small towns versus big cities, because they don't want one-size municipality to receive all of the money."

Projects that ultimately do not receive any state grant money must wait until next year to re-apply. The trust fund is supported by the tax associated with real estate deed transfers. Since the program's inception the division of parks and recreation has awarded 585 grants worth a total of $138 million.