Now that the legislative session finally is over, the reality of certain budget decisions are coming to light.
On a positive note, it turns out that several projects in Benton County will be funded, thanks to almost $2.5 million in state grants awarded by the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board.
This is terrific news.
Essentially, this money preserves the land and makes improvements to parks, trails and wildlife habitat. The projects were submitted statewide for the grants and then analyzed and scored by a citizens committee.
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This keeps the process transparent and independent, and we are grateful for that. There was an attempt in the Senate last spring to change the system so that politicians could cherry-pick projects in their districts.
We are glad that didn’t happen, and that the integrity of the ranking process was maintained. For 25 years, the grant program has managed to keep politics out of its allocation system and that needs to continue.
Having an unbiased, nonpolitical group involved ensures that projects receive funding based on their worth and not on the political whims of politicians.
Money for these state grants come from many sources, including the sale of state bonds, federal oil leases, gas taxes and user fees. Most grants require a match from the agency spending the money.
No projects were approved in Franklin County, but we are fortunate that several projects in Benton County made the cut that will provide outdoor enjoyment for people throughout the region.
One of the top grants was for $695,377 to establish a park on Candy Mountain south of West Richland. A trail over the top also will be created, linking Badger Mountain to Candy Mountain to Red Mountain. The local match comes primarily from donations by Bechtel National and CH2M Hill Plateau and Remediation Co.
In Richland, several projects were given the green light. The city now will be able to build a covered stage and amphitheater at John Dam Plaza, establish five multipurpose fields and additional parking at Hanford Legacy Park in the Horn Rapids area, and construct a new office building and more ticket booths at the Horn Rapids Motorsports Complex.
Kennewick’s Hansen Park will get two picnic shelters, more parking and restrooms, and the Port of Benton will be able to install playground equipment at Crow Butte State Park. In Prosser, new restrooms will be built at Prosser City Park.
These are all worthwhile projects that will give people improved options for spending time outdoors.
We are grateful the citizens committee that ranked the projects saw their worth and that their unbiased approach to allocating the dollars was kept intact this past year.