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Important Funding News Regarding the WWRP and YAF

WWRP: On Wednesday, the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board (RCFB) voted unanimously to forward to the Governor’s Office and OFM a $120 million recommendation for the 2017-19 WWRP funding level. The Coalition did a very good job of bring Board Members to the meeting to testify in strong support and speak to indicators such as population growth, construction activity, the strength of the outdoor recreation economy, etc. Vice-Chair Deborah Jensen (former Woodland Park Zoo CEO), State Policy Chair Marc Berejka (REI), Hannah Clark (WA Association of Land Trusts), and Tom Bugert (The Nature Conservancy) all testified. I put in a supportive plug for the $120M figure as well in our testimony, after we got through our YAF presentation. Board Members all felt like $120M was a fair and representative ‘ask’ to aspire to in light of the indicators. While it likely will be very difficult to hold this $120M level in the Governor’s Budget, but the $120M figure helps drive up the expectation for the Governor’s proposal and helps position all of us in a positive way on WWRP.

YAF: On Wednesday, the RCFB – though not w/o some discussion and concern – voted unanimously to forward to the Governor’s Office and OFM a $12 million recommendation for the 2017-19 YAF funding level. Particularly instrumental on this one was Board Member Pete Mayer, who made the motion and recommendation to go to $12M. New Board Member Michael Shiosaki also made excellent comments in support, as did the Board Chair, Ted Willhite. We had met with and/or communicated by phone with all five (5) Board Members (the others are Mike Deller, retired bank and Port executive and Board Member with the Trust for Public Land; and Betsy Bloomfield who is Executive Director of the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy). Folks, this represents a HUGE commitment by the Board especially considering that in the May 2016 competitive grant round there were only 22 YAF applications covering $4.7M worth of ‘asks.’ We spent a significant part of our testimony taking on the “elephant in the room” and discussing why that happened, the reasons and why a $12M funding recommendation made sense – drawing on the rationale from our Board letter to Kaleen Cottingham (ATTACHED). I also brought up feedback from our Board and LEG Committee Members – perhaps looking at $500K allowable max vs. $250K, the difficulty of the May 2016 application window on this one, and the restriction on allowable uses (existing vs. anything new). Eric Friedli did an excellent job of speaking to this from a Park Director’s perspective – population growth, field demand, new sports leagues/organizations vying for field space, cost and expense of building year-round fields, etc. As the Board discussed our request, they talked about understanding the overall need albeit with worries about how few applications were submitted. Betsy Bloomfield at one point suggested perhaps a $10M funding level to match what was in the 2015-17 Capital Budget. Kaleen Cottingham did an excellent job helping the discussion along and proposing with input from her staff, that a supplemental grant round could be held, preceded by a binding “Letter of Intent” process to get an eligible and committed pool of applicants. In the end, the vote was guided by Pete Mayer’s motion, Michael Shiosaki’s second of the motion, and some comments by the Board Chair that he was comfortable with the $12M figure.

While this is absolutely terrific news on both the WWRP and YAF fronts, folks, I cannot emphasize enough that we have a lot of work to do over the next several months, and important work to do. The Recreation and Conservation Funding Board went out on a limb on our request, and is showing confidence that there WILL be a fuller pool of applicants to fill out a $12M grant-funding pool if indeed the Governor recommends that level and the 2017 Legislature does the same in its 2017-19 budget. For the credibility of our organization and the future of the YAF program, it is going to be very, very important that we deliver on this.

--Doug Levy

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