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Lake Wales Could Benefit from Federal Grant for Parks and Recreation

Grant to State of Florida Allows Local Governments to Apply

Lake Wales area parks and recreational facilities may stand to get a funding boost as a result of a grant received by the state of Florida.

The Department of the Interior announced the distribution of $14,323,172 to the state of Florida today as part of the $295,582,830 granted this year from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to all 50 states, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. The funds from this year's distribution will be available until fiscal year 2025. 

"The Land and Water Conservation Fund helps further President Biden's commitment to investing in America's lands and waters, expanding access to the outdoors, and safeguarding the environment," said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. "These grants, matched primarily by state and local governments, will inspire collaborative conservation and improves equitable access to the outdoors for all."

Federal grants have assisted in funding recreational trails in the City of Lake Wales, and funds may also be made available to help acquire conservation lands that could help fulfill the ambitions of the "Big Green Network" described in the Lake Wales Envisioned plan. That plan, currently nearing completion, involves two major wildlife corridors flanking the city. Lands could be set aside in cooperation with landowners for conservation and recreation through outright purchase with partners, through conservation easements, or other creative methods.

Along with this year's LWCF distribution, the National Park Service is releasing an update to the LWCF Manual that directs states to work more closely with Tribes and underserved communities during the development of their Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plans, a requirement for eligibility to receive LWCF funds. It also prioritizes the creation of parks in underserved communities. While Tribes were already eligible to receive LWCF grants, the changes to the Manual are intended to clarify this availability and encourage Tribal governments to apply for these funds.

"All communities are deserving of local outdoor recreation," said National Park Service Director Chuck Sams. "Through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the National Park Service is proud to help communities and local governments upgrade and create new outdoor spaces that are most beneficial and enriching to their community, so that everyone is able to take part in outdoor recreation close to home."

Since its inception in 1965, LWCF has funded $5.2 billion to support more than 45,000 projects in every county in the country. At no cost to taxpayers, LWCF which is administered by the National Park Service, supports increased public access to and protection for federal public lands and waters - including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and recreation areas - and provides matching grants to Tribal, state and local governments to support the acquisition and development of land for public parks and other outdoor recreation sites.

The allocation for each state and territory is determined through a formula set in the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act and is largely population-based. States and territories further allocate these funds to local projects, usually through a competitive process. These investments help support the Biden-Harris administration's America the Beautiful initiative by supporting locally led outdoor recreation and conservation projects to protect and enhance our nation's public lands and waters.


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