BY SHERI TRUSTY
When the Park District of Ottawa County proposed a 0.6-mill levy in 2020, the Board of Park Commissioners promised to implement a recreation improvement grant program. The park district made good on that promise when it awarded a total of $200,000 in Parks and Trails Improvement Grants to nine applicants in June.
“We wanted to provide the community with grant programs to provide additional funding for recreation improvement opportunities throughout Ottawa County,” said Park District of Ottawa County Executive Director Jannah Wilson.
Grant applicants were required to be a political subdivision, library or school within Ottawa County. Nine entities applied, and each received partial funding for their projects. Grant awards ranged from $5,100 to $59,900. Each grant recipient submitted projects which share the park district’s recreation vision.
“We do look for grant applicants who align with the mission of the park district, especially projects which provide connectivity or incorporate our trail network or water network,” Wilson said. “But we want to leave it open-ended to communities who recognize a high need for funding for other things like docks or playgrounds because our mission is also to support other types of recreation throughout Ottawa County.”
The biggest funding recipient was the Oak Harbor Riverfront Trail project, which received $59,900 to aid in the construction of a river walk along the Portage River.
“We were really sure this one would have regional significance and align with what we are trying to do with connectivity and trails,” Wilson said. “This project showcased collaboration and pulling funding from multiple sources.”
Oak Harbor Mayor Quinton Babcock said the village previously procured $500,000 in funding through the State Capitol Budget, and the additional park district funding will help the village move the project from the planning stage to the execution stage.
“We’ve been planning the river walk since 1985, and plans began in earnest in 2019,” Babcock said. “Three property owners and the village have historically been letting their property be a public space. Now, it will truly be a public space.”
Genoa received a $40,000 Parks and Trails Improvement Grant to help fund the construction of a restroom at Veterans’ Memorial Park.
“We funded that one at a high amount because the restroom will be on the North Coast Inland Trail, which stretches through several miles in Ottawa County,” Wilson said.
Genoa Mayor Thomas Bergman is grateful for the funding.
“Veterans’ Park is the organizational youth sports epicenter. We get hundreds of visitors, and we’ve been relying on porta-potties,” Bergman said. “I can’t say enough about the park district and all they will do for the county.”
Other projects funded by the Parks and Trails Improvement Grant include a welcome center in Marblehead and a playground in Port Clinton.
“We were really impressed with all the applications,” Wilson said. “There is a lot of enthusiasm for outdoor recreation improvements here in Ottawa County.”