The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) will begin accepting applications August 10th for grants to provide outdoor education and recreation programs for kids and to build and maintain trails, boating facilities, and firearm and archery ranges. The RCO is also offering free, online workshops to showcase these grant opportunities and explain application requirements. Grants for boating, trails, and shooting ranges are the largest source of state funding for many of these outdoor recreation experiences. However, this is the only opportunity to apply for these grants until 2024.

One new program that is being introduced this year is the Outdoor Learning Grants program. Typical projects regarding this grant include: Hands on environmental education and nature based learning experiences, learning about habitat restoration and environmental stewardship activities, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) education activities, and many others. Ineligible projects include: Land Acquisition, Facility Construction, and Programs that do not include direct youth outdoor education programming.

Programs should have a focus on outdoor education aligned with the Washington State content learning standards and the development of social and emotional learning skills. The age range for these programs consist of Pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. These programs must develop and support educational experiences for students in Washington public schools. For the Outdoor Learning Grants, federally recognized Native American tribes, and Outdoor education providers such as local governments, qualified nonprofit organizations, and state agencies are allowed to apply.

The RCO is administering the grant program jointly with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and grant awards will be made in early October for the 2022-23 school year. This new program compliments grants offered in the No Child Left Inside program, which is managed jointly with the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. “We’re very excited to offer all of these grants but especially the grants for getting kids outside,” said Megan Duffy, RCO’s director. “Spending time outside provides so many benefits. We know it can ease stress, improve mental and physical health and even improve children’s academic performance. These grants help ensure that kids get a chance to spend time outside and receive those benefits.”

RCO will accept grant proposals for other projects as well including: Boating, Trails, and Firearm and Archery ranges. Boating grants may consist of buying, developing, or renovating facilities for motorized boats and other watercraft, including launching ramps, guest moorage, and support facilities. “This type of grant will cover anything that has to do in regards to boating or watercraft activities, whether it be restoring launching sites or creating new ones” said Marguerite Austin, who is the Recreation and Conservation grants section manager. Registration for the boating grants webinar is on August 10th at 10 a.m.

For grants pertaining to trails, projects may include: developing, rehabilitating, and maintaining trails that provide a backcountry experience. Funding may be used for education and enforcement programs that encourage environmentally responsible use of the trails and help minimize conflict between visitors Registration for trail grants webinar is on August 10th at 11:00 a.m.

Firearm and archery ranges are the final grant that is being offered. Buying land, developing, and renovating firearm ranges and archery training and practice facilities are some of the projects covered within the grant. Other projects could include a skeet shooting field, developing a new field archery course, or organizing a firearm safety and shooting practice event. “We will work closely with firearm organizations, safety regulations, and professionals when it comes to the firearm and archery grants,” said Austin.

RCO will be offering another new grant program in the fall, with applications due in October. The Planning for Recreation Access grants will provide funding for planning projects in communities that lack adequate access to outdoor recreation opportunities. Grants may be used to support planning, community engagement, and collaboration between local governments, community-based organizations, and residents to define outdoor recreation needs, prioritize investments to address those needs, and prepare on-the-ground projects for RCO and other funding opportunities.

Grant applications are due September 1st for the Outdoor Learning Program and Novemeber 1st for the other programs. More information about the grant requirements is available at RCO’s website: RCO Home Page – RCO Recreation and Conservation Office Home Page (wa.gov)

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