Governor McKee and DEM Announce $2 Million in Grants for Local Recreational Facilities

In a move aimed at enhancing outdoor recreational opportunities across Rhode Island, Governor Dan McKee, alongside the Department of Environmental Management (DEM), unveiled the allocation of $2 million in matching grants to 11 municipalities. These funds will facilitate the development or renovation of various outdoor recreational facilities within local communities.

The announcement comes as part of the perennially popular “rec grant” program administered by DEM. Despite the availability of only $2 million in funding, this cycle saw an overwhelming response, with applications seeking nearly five times the allocated amount.

The grant awards will support a diverse range of projects throughout the state, including the establishment of new playgrounds, pickleball courts, dog parks, splash pads, walking trails, revitalized ballfields and basketball courts, shade pavilions, outdoor performance areas, and various site improvements.

Since its inception in 1988, DEM’s community recreation grant program has been instrumental in driving improvements across Rhode Island. Over 568 recreational grants have been awarded, amounting to more than $91 million invested in enhancing recreational facilities across all 39 communities in the state.

Funding for these projects is secured through green bonds, which are included in the Governor’s proposed budget and subsequently voted on by Rhode Island residents as a referendum question on the ballot every two years. Historically, these measures have enjoyed strong support, with the 2022 Green Bond approved by nearly 70 percent of Rhode Island voters.

Governor Dan McKee highlighted the importance of increasing outdoor recreational opportunities, citing benefits to mental well-being, public health, and overall quality of life. He praised DEM’s stewardship of the popular matching grants program, emphasizing the role of recreational assets in anchoring communities and fostering a sense of identity.

DEM Director Terry Gray acknowledged the high demand for the grant program and expressed gratitude for Governor McKee’s proposal to increase funding through a Green Bond in the budget. Gray encouraged communities to stay engaged and participate in future grant application workshops to refine their project proposals.

The grant applications underwent thorough evaluation and scoring by the Rhode Island Recreation Resources Review Committee, adhering to the Open Project Selection Process developed under the 2019 State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP).

The grants, ranging from $60,000 to $400,000, require matching funds from local communities, resulting in over $2.5 million in total investments in recreational projects across Rhode Island. The program offers funding in three categories: small development grants, large development grants, and acquisition funds aimed at supporting property acquisition for permanent outdoor recreation.

Among the projects awarded small grants are renovations to playgrounds, walking trails, and the establishment of community gardens and dog parks. Large grants have been allocated for ambitious undertakings such as the restoration of historic parks and the creation of splash pads and performance stages.

DEM’s Green Space programs, which encompass Outdoor Recreation, Local Open Space, and Recreational Trail grants, play a vital role in conserving land, acquiring recreational land, and developing recreational trails statewide. Rhode Island’s outdoor recreation industry is a significant contributor to the state’s economy, generating $1.7 billion in consumer spending and supporting over 18,000 local jobs, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

Municipal recreational facilities form an integral part of Rhode Island’s broader network of recreational opportunities, contributing to community beautification, public health promotion, climate resilience, and environmental sustainability.

Small grants were awarded to the following projects:

  • Coventry: Harris Playground Renovation, $100,000. New ADA playground with wood fiber surfacing, accessible paths, tables, and landscaping.
  • East Greenwich: Scalloptown Park Renovation and Dog Park, $100,000. New dog park, fencing, shade pavilion, solar powered composting toilet, pathways, tables, benches, signage, and landscaping.
  • Johnston: War Memorial Park Walking Trail Renovations, $100,000. Renovation of existing walking trail with wooden guardrails, ADA compliant benches, lighting, signage, and landscaping.
  • Lincoln: Old Fairlawn Park Pickleball Courts, $100,000. New pickleball courts, fencing, benches, lighting, shade trees, parking lot repair, and stormwater control.
  • Portsmouth: Community Playground, $60,000. New playground with fence, tables, benches, walkways, and landscaping.
  • Warren: Community Garden, $72,445. Raised beds, fencing, well, storage shed, rain barrels, compost binds, tables, benches, bike rack, parking area, and signage.
  • West Greenwich, Playground Expansion, $80,000. Expansion of existing playground area, new playground equipment and fencing.

 Large grants were awarded to the following projects:

  • Central Falls: Historic Jenks Park Restoration, $400,000. Open Air Performance Stage, open lawn and seating area, new concrete pathways, site furnishings and signage.
  • East Providence: Providence Avenue Park Splash Pad, $400,000. New splashpad with fencing, bike racks and trees.
  • Pawtucket: John Street Splash Pad and Playground Improvements, $400,000. Renovate existing playground with inclusive features, new splash pad, performance area, lighting for basketball court and parking, walking loop, new parking area, benches, signage, stormwater control, and landscaping.
  • Providence: Cabral Park Playground and Waterpark Revitalization, $400,000. Revitalize existing splash pad, ballfield and basketball courts, new play equipment, site furnishings, outdoor classroom, green infrastructure, signage, and landscaping.




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