Federal grants will boost Central Oregon parks, rec site

Land and Water Conservation Fund grants paid for by offshore drilling

By Andrew Clevenger / The Bulletin / @andclev

Published Jul 24, 2014 at 12:19AM

WASHINGTON — Four projects in Central Oregon will receive more than $850,000 in funding from federal Land and Water Conservation Fund grants, the state Parks and Recreation Department announced this week.

Oregon has held off from awarding Land and Water Conservation fund grants for two years, so these grants represent money previously distributed from the federal fund in previous years, said Chris Havel of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

The Crooked River Wetlands Park in Prineville will receive $260,000 to spend on developing paths, greenway trails, river access, bird-watching and picnic areas, restrooms and a covered visitors area.

Tumalo State Park will receive $346,000, which will go to replace a 57-year-old restroom and update two sewage disposal systems.

An additional $135,384 will be used to buy 2,445 acres, part of a larger, 10,000-acre recreation area under development on the Lower Deschutes River by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Sisters will get $111,374 for improvements to Village Green Park, including a handicapped-accessible bathroom with showers and bike lockers.

Overall, the $852,758 for projects in Central Oregon represents the bulk of the $1.1 million in Land and Water Conservation Fund grants distributed in Oregon.

Brian Jennings, a Bend representative of Oregon Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, praised the land purchase, which he said will offer opportunities to hunt big game and pheasants and fish trout, steelhead and salmon.

“It will enable sportsmen to have access without walking on private property and trespassing,” he said.

The House approved creation of the Land and Water Conservation Fund 50 years ago Wednesday. Over five decades, it has used gas and oil receipts from drilling on the outer continental shelf to conserve national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, wilderness and civil war battlefields, and develop and support state and local parks. During that period, Oregon has received $263 million.

Earlier this month, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the distribution of more than $43 million in Land and Water Conservation Fund money, including $657,659 for Oregon. These funds will be assigned to future projects, Havel said.

By law, the fund may receive $900 million each year, but it rarely receives its full allotment, and $17 billion has been allocated for other purposes. The law authorizing the fund is set to expire at the end of September 2015, and several senators, including Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called for its renewal this week.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a truly unique federal program that is proven to boost local economies, increase tourism, and protect our nation’s precious natural resources, yet does not rely on taxpayer dollars,” Wyden said in a prepared statement. “On its 50th anniversary, it’s time for Congress to reaffirm its commitment to this valuable program and push for full, consistent funding to preserve special places in Oregon and across America.”

— Reporter: 202-662-7456, aclevenger@bendbulletin.com