BOWIE — For the fiscal year 2019, 26 Maryland parks and playgrounds have received $2.5 million in funding from the state budget for improvements and renovations through the Community Parks and Playgrounds Program.
“The fiscal year 2019 budget will provide funding for 26 park and playground projects primarily to restore or create new equipment,” said Deputy Director of Land Acquisition and Planning Hilary Bell. “The projects will be specific to different municipalities.”
The funding has already been approved in Governor Larry Hogan’s budget and the general assembly. It will go into effect at the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1.
This year Bowie will receive the highest amount of money at $275,000 to purchase and install new playground equipment and safety surfacing for White Marsh Playground. Other municipalities receiving the funding for the upcoming year include Baltimore City, Cumberland, Delmar, La Plata, Vienna, Rockville, Frostburg and Glenarden.
“This has been in planning for three years,” said Sherry Beach, park operations manager of White Marsh Playground. “We’re putting in a concession stand, a pedestrian plaza, and two multi-age playgrounds.”
The updates to the playground will be enacted in two phases. During phase one, which starts during the last week of June, construction will begin with the installation of the foundation for the projects. Phase two will start in October where they will start putting in the actual playground equipment and pedestrian plaza.
“We’ve been working on a new concept for the playground with natural play areas for kids,” Beach said.
Tilghman Lake Park in La Plata will be continuing a project they began a couple years ago with money they had been granted at the time and hope to be finished by the summer of next year.
“We received $25,000, and we will be installing three new exercise stations,” said Assistant Town Manager Michelle Miner. “We got our first grant in 2016 and want to add more.”
Other projects include replacing the safety surface at two playgrounds in Baltimore City, installing stadium lights for the softball field at the Mason-Dixon Sports Complex in Delmar, create a new playing field and parking lot at Waterside Park in Salisbury and install new playground equipment at Wharf Park in Centreville.
“The Community Parks and Playgrounds program provides funding for the restoration of existing and the creation of new parks and green spaces in Maryland's cities and towns,” said Department of Natural Resources Director of Communications Stephen Schatz. “The program provides grants exclusively to municipal governments to renovate, expand, or improve existing parks, create new parks or purchase and install playground equipment.”
The Community Parks and Playgrounds Program, which funds projects such as construction or replacement of pathways, parking improvements and repair of park and playground equipment, usually gets around $2.5 million every year. They have funded 700 projects totaling over $67 million.
“Through this dedicated funding stream, Maryland’s communities and towns can build, maintain and upgrade local playgrounds and parks, improving the quality of life of children and families,” Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton said. “The program enhances accessibility and outdoor recreation while encouraging youth to play outdoors.”
Program Open Space administers the Community Parks and Playgrounds program. Under the umbrella of the Department of Natural Resources, Program Open Space assists local governments in documenting their need for funding and sometimes provides grant writing workshops to help with the process.
All municipalities are invited to apply for funding. Each application is reviewed and evaluated by Project Open Space as well as the DNR then the selected grants are submitted to the Board of Public Works.
“Once reviewed by the Department of Natural Resources, recommended projects are forwarded to the Department of Budget and Management for possible inclusion in the governor’s budget proposal,” said Schatz. “Once the budget is approved by the legislature and the fiscal year begins, the selected projects will be submitted for state clearinghouse review, and to the Board of Public Works for final approval.”
The projects are evaluated based on consistency with Community Parks and Playground Program’s purpose, eligibility requirements and criteria and the applicant’s project detail responses.
The money in the budget going towards the program comes from state generated obligation bonds and the state’s capital budget.
“We typically receive seven to $10 million worth of applications depending on the projects needed,” Bell said. “The applications usually exceed what is available for us to give. We award the funding to what we can afford.”
DNR is currently accepting grant applications from cities and towns looking to enhance their parks and playgrounds for the governor’s fiscal year 2020 budget which are due by Aug. 15, 2018. Municipalities that apply are only allowed one grant application package per round of competition and should have a plan for how they will plan, implement, and maintain the project.