Federal grant to help fund park expansion

Friday, April 1, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:56 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

A $150,000 grant from the federal government will help the city further construct and expand Flat Branch Park.

Columbia’s grant will go toward the second phase of construction of the downtown park, including an expansion ofthe park into a city-owned parking lot between Locust and Elm streets.

City officials learned of the grant on Thursday. The money comes from the National Park Service’s Land and Water Conservation Fund and is distributed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

“There’s always a lot of competition,” Columbia Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood said on Thursday. “There’s a limited amount of money. We were extremely pleased today to hear that we’ve been accepted.”

Hood said the parks staff submitted a similar application last year, but was denied money. “This grant funding is very good news, because it is a key component of the funding scenario,” Hood said.

Costs for the second phase of Flat Brach Park construction will total about $900,000. Roughly one-third of the money will come from private donations; the rest will be provided by the city. The $150,000 grant will go toward the city’s portion, the balance of which will come from proceeds of the parks sales tax.

“We hope to be able to start construction on the park in the fall,” Hood said.

In deciding which applications to approve, the Department of Natural Resources looks at the number of people affected by the project, state recreation plans and environmental issues.

“We like lots of public support, so that’s a key thing, too,” department planner Chris Buckland said.

The department made a recommendation to a council of state agencies, including the Missouri Department of Transportation, the Department of Economic Development and MU. This council makes final decisions about which applications to approve.

Buckland said that, although the money is distributed annually, federal budget cuts will prevent any grants next year. Grass-root organizations and state agencies are trying to get the funding restored.

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