The Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism is awarding $6.489 million in Outdoor Recreation Grants to projects within 35 counties across the state. The grants fall into two categories: Facilities for Underdeveloped Neighborhoods (FUN) Park grants and matching grants.

“These grants help projects to complete or improve upon facilities that provide quality outdoor recreational opportunities within our local communities,” said Mike Mills, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. “Not only do these projects improve quality of life for the people who live in these communities, they also boost the local economy by providing additional amenities to draw visitors who will shop, dine and may even stay overnight.”

The Outdoor Recreation Grants Program (ORGP) has provided $50.3 million in matching grants since 1988 and $14.3 million in FUN Park grants since 1991. These awards have helped cities and counties develop public outdoor recreation facilities.

“The program has accomplished so much since its inception,” said Matt McNair, director of the ORGP. “However, I’m even more excited about the work we’ll accomplish this year because this is the largest total award amount that we’ve ever given away.”

Project officers make recommendations regarding the feasibility of proposed facilities, eligibility for grant monies and other facets of the planning process. Each year, nearly 200 site visits are conducted to assist local communities.

“Through these grants we’re engaging more Arkansans with the outdoors and creating spaces where the outdoors intersects with quality of life, public health, wellness and economic development,” said Katherine Andrews, director of the Arkansas Office of Outdoor Recreation.

Area 2023 matching grant recipients

Batesville (Independence County) to purchase and install playground equipment at Splash Pad Park and Kennedy Park that includes barrier-free access improvements; to install a walkway to provide barrier-free access to an existing playground at the Soccer Complex – $175, 677.

Beebe (White County) to replace batting cages near the public pool with a splash pad and update playground equipment, including replacement of a slide and fall zone material at Beebe City Park-John Douglass Sports Complex; to provide barrier-free access improvement to an existing playground at Beebe Community Pond – $250,000.

Fairfield Bay (Van Buren County) to install playground at Sunset Park; to acquire land for Pickleball Courts Park and develop pickleball facilities, lighting, electricity, fencing, accessible parking and walkways – $222,415.

Mountain View (Stone County) to resurface deteriorated tennis courts, restripe for tennis/pickleball combination use, construct ADA access improvements to tennis/pickleball courts at the Recreational Complex; replace/replenish fall zone surfacing at the city park – $79,727.

Newport (Jackson County) to replace old/obsolete swings, provide barrier-free access to swings, basketball court, slide and pavilion at Hines Park; to install barrier-free parking and access, and a fence to improve user safety at swings at Normandy Park – $35,401.

Area 2023 FUN Park grant recipients

Bradford (White County) to replace outdated/deteriorated bleacher seating, install concrete pads and shade covers at Bradford City Park – $100,00.

Concord (Cleburne County) to install new play structure, replace fall zone material at existing play area, replace fence separating park from adjacent city streets, provide barrier-free parking and access improvements at Brackett City Park – $97,479.

Fifty Six (Stone County) to remove deteriorated softball field lighting, remove/replace chain link baseline fencing and backstop, regrade softball field, install bleachers with concrete pads, install barrier-free parking and sidewalk access at Fifty Six City Park – $98,102.

Oil Trough (Independence County) to install safety surfacing at play area, playground equipment, drinking fountain, barrier-free parking and access to connect to existing pavilion at Oil Trough School Park – $100,000.

Pangburn (White County) to install swing set, fall zone material, performance course exercise equipment, barrier-free parking and access at Pangburn City Park – $100,000.

Fox Community (Stone County) to replace/repair fencing around ballfield, install new fence at basketball court, develop barrier-free access to dugouts and basketball court at Fox Community Park – $99,918.

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