On July 19, 2017, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), along with Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vermont), announced that Burlington, Vermont had been selected for a $500,000 Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) program competitive grant from the National Park Service.
The grant will help the city acquire 12 acres on the shore of Lake Champlain to develop a new city park and eventually develop a trail connecting two other park properties as well as other recreational amenities.
Funding for this project was awarded after a 2016 letter of support from the Vermont congressional delegation. The ORLP program is also funded through the Department of Interior’s Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) that Leahy has long championed as a leading member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
A total of $13.3 million in OLRP grants were announced that will help 22 cities in 17 states with projects to plan, build and enhance parks and other outdoor recreation facilities in underserved communities. These key public-private partnerships leverage $13.3 million in federal funding with $21.2 million from local governments, private firms, and nonprofit organizations to improve accessibility of playgrounds, create canoe and kayak launches and fishing piers, restore vacant industrial land for park uses, and make other important investments in parks across the country. The LWCF is not financed by taxpayer funds, but by royalty fees paid by corporations for resource development on federal lands.
In a statement, Leahy, Sanders and Welch said: “Our local community parks contribute much to our quality of life in Vermont. They are part of our social and economic infrastructure and add to our physical wellbeing. Having a healthy urban environment with a well-designed and maintained network of city parks is a vibrant component of any city’s civic foundation. Cities of all sizes have seen a high return on investment as high-quality parks spur economic development by attracting homebuyers and boosting residential property values.”
They continued, “If we want to stay healthy, connecting with nature and getting outdoors in our local parks is a good early step, for Vermonters young and old. We have long supported funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and these targeted federal investments in our local parks, as well as our national parks, forests and wildlife refuges. Continuing strong funding for the LWCF is a top priority as we work to protect and enhance Vermont parks and open space, which has countless economic, social, and health benefits.”
Gil Livington, President of the Vermont Land Trust said: “This LWCF grant is the final critical piece in creating a spectacular city park, an oasis of special importance to residents of Burlington’s Old North End. The new park is now home to community gardens, a beautiful sand beach, a wooded bluff affording beautiful views of Lake Champlain, and an historic stone house to be available for a variety of public uses. Funding from LWCF is matched by a grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, funds from the Burlington Conservation Legacy Fund, and a generous private gift. The Vermont Land Trust deeply appreciates our congressional delegation’s longtime support for public land protection.”
“Parks play a vital role in the social, economic and physical well-being of America’s cities and their residents. We are thrilled that the administration has moved ahead and awarded these grants through the Outdoor Recreation Leadership Program,” said Catherine Nagel, Executive Director of City Parks Alliance. “With 80 percent of Americans living in urban and metropolitan areas, investing in our city parks is needed now more than ever. This important federal funding will leverage additional funds from public and private sources, and will help provide healthy and vibrant parks for all.”
Photo of waterfront park in Burlington VT via Adobe Stock.