A major federal funding announcement for parks and outdoor recreation took place in Fort Worth on Tuesday.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced that $43.38 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund will go to all 50 states and U.S. territories for state-identified outdoor recreation and conservation projects in fiscal year 2014, which starts in October.
It's the most money to be handed out from the fund in nearly a decade. But Secretary Jewell and Mayor Betsy Price used the announcement as a chance to push for full funding of the fund and to keep the fund from going away.
Mayor Price's passion for parks and outdoor activities is well known, with her weekly town hall bike rides. She's currently co-chairing a group of bi-partisan U.S. mayors asking Congress to fully fund and re-authorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
"The estimate is that 75-percent of our population will live in cities in the next 10 years," Mayor Price said. "And it's critical that we provide that element of outdoor living and enjoyment."
The fund was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. It called for $900 million a year in off-shore drilling revenues to be set aside and distributed for parks projects across the country.
The fund needs to be re-authorized by Congress or it won't exist any more next fiscal year. In its 50 years, Congress has only fully funded it once. This year it's again less than five-percent of what the fund was intended to distribute each year.
"This year, we are making a grant in support of the state Land and Water Conservation Fund of $43 million," Secretary Jewell announced at Fort Worth's Gateway Park. "That's going to go to all 50 states, all U.S. territories to fulfill their local visions for conservation and outdoor recreation."
Secretary Jewell announced that Texas will get $2.47 million this year, the second most of any state. That number brings the grand total given to Texas in the fund's history to nearly $180 million.
Total LWCF Funding Texas' LWCF Funding
2014 $43.38 Million $2.39 Million
2013 $40.03 Million $2.17 Million
2012 $42.23 Million $2.29 Million
2011 $37.4 Million $2.02 Million
2010 $38.08 Million $1.94 Million
2005 $89.73 Million $4.71 Million
*Between 2006-2009 Total LWCF Less Than $30 Million Total
Source: U.S. Department of the Interior
"It's not just the money the federal government puts in, it's matched by state and local money and that's really critical, so it goes twice as far," Secretary Jewell said.
The LWCF has played a big role in Fort Worth's park system. In 1980, the city of Fort Worth received $805,532 for the acquisition of three parks. Matching funds brought the total to $1,611,064, with $1,449,694 going toward the purchase of 325 acres that later became Gateway Park, where the announcement on Tuesday was made. A total of $724,847 of LWCF money was used for the purchase.
The park has expanded in the years after, thanks to other grants and donations. It's not known how much the city will receive in 2014 from the funds, but the city plans to seek the grant money.
For Mayor Price and Secretary Jewell, they simply seek the fund's continued existence.
"It's a brilliant piece of legislation. We need to get it re-authorized and we need it funded at its full intended level," Secretary Jewell said.
"The mayors really understand that this is the future of our cities, the future of all our children," Mayor Price said.
Just last month in Dallas, the U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a resolution supporting the LWCF's re-authorization.