Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation Launches Over $6 Million in Grants for Outdoor Recreation

 

July 8, 2021 – Today the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation (FPR) announced the launch of the 2021 Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative (VOREC) Community Grant Program and the Enhancement of Recreational Stewardship and Access (ERSA) Trail Grants. These programs will distribute over $6 million to municipalities and non-profit organizations across Vermont. The funding for these programs comes from one-time general funds and is a portion of the more than $20 million Governor Scott directed for spending on outdoor recreation investments that support both short-term economic recovery and long-term stewardship of lands, waters, people, and local economies. 

Applicants to both programs can apply using a two-step letter of interest and application invitation process that will be supported by a series of virtual workshops. Workshops are intended to share information about each program and provide applicants with opportunities to ask questions directly to program staff. Letter of interest forms for both programs are due by Tuesday, August 27. Strong applicants will be invited to submit full applications.

While these grant programs share very similar application timelines, they serve different purposes and will fund different types of work. Applicants can submit a letter of interest to both programs if they think their project is a good fit. If applicants are unsure which program to apply for, they are encouraged to attend the 2021 Outdoor Recreation Grant Funding virtual workshop on Monday, July 19. This workshop will be recorded and posted online for anyone who cannot make the meeting. More information about grant programs, letter of interest forms, and virtual workshops can be found by visiting the FPR Recreation Grant webpage.

 

The VOREC Community Grant Program helps Vermont communities leverage their local outdoor recreation assets for greater economic vitality and many other co-benefits. Grants help Vermont communities grow their local economies by funding a variety of outdoor recreation related activities that support the five pillars of VOREC:

  1. Grow outdoor recreation-related businesses.
  2. Increase participation in outdoor recreation activities among all demographics.
  3. Strengthen the quality and extent of outdoor recreation resources.
  4. Increase stewardship of outdoor recreation resources and environmental quality.
  5. Promote and enjoy the health and wellness benefits of outdoor recreation.

This year, there is $5,100,000 in one-time state general funds available in grants for non-profit organizations and municipalities. Staff aim to fund up to 25 projects that span a variety of “buckets” including equity, multi-community efforts, and smaller local efforts. Grant minimums will be set at $50,000, with no maximum, to encourage regional scale thinking. There is no match requirement for these grants, but leveraged funds are encouraged.

“This influx of funding is a landmark moment for VOREC, especially as COVID-19 has highlighted anew the immense benefits of outdoor recreation,” said VOREC Chair and Forests, Parks, and Recreation Commissioner Michael Snyder. “Not only will these grants support projects that represent VOREC’s pillars to promote business opportunities, increase participation, and strengthen the quality and stewardship of our recreational resources, but they also represent an important opportunity for short-term economic recovery from the pandemic."

To support the development of strong full applications, grant program staff will be working with applicants during the letter of interest phase to share feedback on their project ideas. This feedback could include suggestions to build partnerships with other applicants. Program staff will be looking for projects that support VOREC’s pillars and align with VOREC’s definition of outdoor recreation as leisure, sport and therapeutic recreation activities pursued outdoors, mainly in a natural setting. Program staff will invite a subset of applicants to submit a full application.

Previous VOREC grants have funded programs that benefit Vermont’s outdoor recreation economy through activities like developing wayfinding and signage to educate locals and visitors and connect them with businesses, increasing trail connections, and creating marketing materials that encourage people to explore expanded recreational opportunities. Applicants can find more information about the grant program and the 2021 application process on the grant website, fpr.vermont.gov/vorec-community-grant-program.

ERSA Trail Grant Program provides much needed support for Vermont trails

The Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation is excited to offer this funding to non-profit organizations and municipalities for the first time. 2020 was a banner year for outdoor recreation in Vermont, and trail organizations saw a huge increase in the use of their outdoor resources. The intent of this funding is to support these organizations as they work to steward their trails and improve trail accessibility for generations to come, as well as ensure economic recovery and development rooted in environmental quality.

FPR’s Commissioner Michael Snyder says, “Public investments in trail stewardship, access and accessibility, especially in locations that are heavily used, are key to public and environmental health.   These grants will support trail organizations which steward public trail systems, including on private lands, while encouraging economic recovery associated with equitable access and providing high-quality trail experiences.”

$1 million in one-time state general funds are available through the ERSA Trail Grant Program. Grant applications will be accepted for trail projects on privately owned land with public access easements or written landowner permission for long-term continued public use or projects on public lands. Grant program staff aim to fund up to 20 projects with a minimum grant award of $25,000 and no maximum. There is no match requirement for these grants, but leveraged funds are encouraged. Applicants are required to fill out a letter of interest to be invited to submit a full application. 

Program staff will be looking for projects that fall into one or more of the following categories: (1) major trail maintenance or reconstruction and renovation of existing trails; (2) new construction of trails or trailhead and trailside facilities that result in improving access or accessibility for new or underserved populations; (3) educational projects which improve trail stewardship, access or accessibility for new or underserved populations and/or provide trail information, mapping services or other trail user information to the public; (4) tool purchases and equipment rentals to support the project categories above; and (5) acquisitions in fee simple for public trail corridors or trail access easements to support the project categories above, consistent with the Federal Relocation and Real Property Acquisition Act.

Applicants can find more information about the grant program and application process on the grant website fpr.vermont.gov/recreation/recreation-grants/enhancement-recreation-stewardship-and-access-ersa-trail-grants.

For more information about these and other recreation grant programs offered by the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation visit fpr.vermont.gov/recreation/recreation-grants.