During the Spring of 2019, not long after the groundbreaking ceremony for the new ball fields, the City of Princeton with the support of the Princeton R-V School District and the Princeton Ball Association applied for the Federal Land, Water, and Conservation Fund Grant that is administered by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Created by Congress in 1965, LWCF provides matching grants to states and local governments for the acquisition and development of public outdoor recreation areas and facilities. The program is intended to create and maintain a nationwide legacy of high-quality recreation areas and facilities and to stimulate non-federal investments in the protection and maintenance of recreation resources across the United States. The LWCF program is funded through revenue from off-shore oil and gas drilling. The Department of Interior’s National Park Service (NPS) oversees the LWCF program and has delegated administration of the program to each state. In Missouri, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) administers the program. Direct oversight of the program is performed by the Division of State Park’s (DSP) Grants Management Section (GMS).
During the application process, the City of Princeton was informed that no construction could begin until final approval from the National Park Service was granted. Many procedures are required in order to receive construction approval. For example, compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act, National Environmental Policy Act, endangered species, and specific wetland protected areas are all reviewed for the construction area. While the project has passed initial approval for the beginning of construction, it cannot proceed until the National Park Service reviews and gives final approval. The City of Princeton, the School, and the PBA were waiting for this approval to be finalized around September 2020.
Unfortunately, the National Park Service informed the Missouri State Parks that they would not be authorizing a final grant application for review until November 2020, at the earliest, due to changes in their consultation process that have resulted from COVID-19. Missouri State Parks is still waiting for further feedback on our grant application. If NPS provides the final approval for the project, we are hopeful that the LWCF program will be able to award the grants for a late Spring 2021 start date, but again, we have not received any information to indicate an official start date.
Organizers were informed that if our project was time-sensitive they could withdraw the grant application and begin the construction without the $250,000 matching grant. While disappointed in the delay of the potential of receiving $250,000 in matching funds, the City of Princeton, the Princeton R-V School District, and the PBA understand that the quality of the project and the amount of the grant is too good to forfeit.
While the delay in funding has prevented construction, there has been progress in other aspects of the project. PBA President, Nathan Evans, has been in contact with the Missouri Department of Transportation regarding the ability to purchase a portion of the right-of-way of HWY 136 and FF HWY. The right-of-way acquisition will add an additional one acre to the sports complex.
PBA President Nathan Evans commented, “While we hoped to begin construction in late summer 2020, we have delayed the project in hopes of receiving the LWCF Grant of $250,000. The grant will provide a significant amount of resources needed to construct a quality facility for years to come. Without the grant, the project would have to be scaled down significantly.”