Recreation and Conservation Funding Board’s Unifying Strategy
This state unifying strategy is the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board’s goals for addressing priorities and recommendations in the 2018-2022 Recreation and Conservation Plan during the next 5 years.
The unifying strategy is one of the ways the board works to meet its statutory mission and its strategic plan. See the Recreation and Conservation Office’s Web site for more information on the board.
Revised Code of Washington 79A.25.005(1)(a) authorizes the unifying strategy. This strategy is an appendix to and relies on the research and findings within the 2018-2022 Recreation and Conservation Plan. The Recreation and Conservation Funding Board adopted this strategy on October 11, 2017.
Build, Renovate and Maintain Parks and Trails
Whether renovating an older park to meet the needs of today’s population, collaborating to build a new regional recreation facility, or leveraging partnerships to expand the support for a new trail, the board’s grant programs are an important financial contribution to meeting the needs of a growing population. In fact, grants administered by the Recreation and Conservation Office contribute a modest portion of the overall funding portfolio of recreation providers and land managers. The chart below shows the percent of funding each type of organization received from the office. 
Percent of Funding from the Recreation and Conservation Office by Organization
|Organization||Percent of Funding|
|Other state agencies||20%|
Note the Recreation and Conservation Office administers grant funds on behalf of the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board as well as other sources. The data reflects all of the grants administered by the office.
The board incorporates all the priorities and recommendations the 2018-2022 Recreation and Conservation Plan in its work to build, renovate, and maintain parks and trails across the state. Specifically, this strategy supports the following priorities in the plan:
- Sustain and Grow the Legacy of Parks, Trails, and Conservation Lands Trails for a growing population,
- Improve the Equity of Parks, Trails, and Conservation Lands for a variety of outdoor recreation uses,
- Get Youth Outside by funding facilities to satisfy youth outdoor recreation needs,
- Plan for Culturally Relevant Parks and Trails to Meet Changing Demographics for culturally diverse forms of outdoor recreation, and
- Assert Recreation and Conservation as a Vital Public Service by supporting its multiple benefits.
Senator Henry M Jackson Park
The City of Everett recently renovated Senator Henry M. Jackson Park to meet current recreation needs.
The board seeks to conserve habitat to buffer sensitive species from population growth and maintain resident’s satisfaction with recreation opportunities on habitat lands. Conserving habitat goes beyond species considerations and must include the community’s interest in preserving land from future development. Conservation efforts will be better supported across the state if local communities and elected officials are part of a conservation planning effort. Examples of these types of collaborations are in the priority to Sustain and Grow the Legacy of Parks, Trails, and Conservation Lands the 2018-2022 Recreation and Conservation Plan under the recommendation to pursue regional solutions to recreation and conservation.
In addition, land conservation should include public access when possible to expand the recreation opportunities for the 89 percent of the state population who enjoys nature-based recreation activities such visiting rivers and beaches or collecting things.  Conservation also supports other forms of recreation such as hiking, camping, snow and ice activities, fishing, and hunting.
The Washington State Legislature is investigating whether outcomes from conservation efforts are effective at meeting intended outcomes. A final report from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee’s study on Measuring Outcomes of Habitat and Recreation Acquisition and Regulations expected in January 2018. Once available, the board will consider whether to change its grant programs based on the findings.
Three topics of interest to the board related to conserving habitat are climate change, wetlands preservation, and ecosystem services.
The board supports conservation efforts to increase the state’s resiliency to climate change. Climate change affects recreation opportunities (such as less snow in winter for skiing) and conservation measures (such as shifts in the habitat on the landscape). Applicants for grants are encouraged to propose conservation efforts in the context of the latest climate change research and impacts assessments. Resources for applicants include work done by the Climate Impacts Group, at the College of the Environment at the University of Washington. Applicants also are encouraged to incorporate the effects of climate change in their land use planning.
The board supports the use of wetlands as a method to address conversions of parkland as required in the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act. Allowing wetlands as replacement mitigation for impacts to parks funded in the Land and Water Conservation Fund program will aid the state in meeting its objectives in Department of Ecology’s 2015 Washington State Wetlands Program Plan to protect the best remaining wetlands in the state. Most important is the protection of Category 1 and high-functioning Category 2 wetlands. Sponsors that propose to provide wetlands as replacement for park conversions must demonstrate the importance of the wetlands preservation in their request to the board. For a map of the state’s priority wetlands, visit the Department of Natural Resources’ map of Wetlands of High Conservation Value developed by the Natural Heritage Program.
The board supports conservation efforts to support a variety of ecosystem services, which are the benefits that people derive from nature free of charge. Examples of ecosystem services are recreation, breathable air, drinkable water, nourishing food, flood risk reduction, waste treatment, and stable atmospheric conditions. The ecosystem services contributed by recreation and conservation areas are estimated to have a value between $134 billion and $248 billion a year in Washington State.
The board incorporates all the priorities and recommendations the 2018-2022 Recreation and Conservation Plan in its work to conserve habitat. Specifically, this strategy supports the following priorities in the plan:
- Sustain and Grow the Legacy of Parks, Trails, and Conservation Lands Trails to address habitat needs in context of a growing human population, and
- Assert Recreation and Conservation as a Vital Public Service by supporting the multiple benefits of conserving habitat.
Support State Plans, Strategies, and Initiatives
Recreation and conservation work touches many different state efforts. The diversity of state efforts demonstrates that investment in recreation and conservation has multiple benefits to the people of Washington State including improvements in their health, better multimodal transportation, and preservation of the state’s quality of life.
The board supports the recreation and conservation efforts of the Governor, Legislature and other state agencies and encourages applicants to consult these state efforts to determine the statewide need for their projects. Applicants should discuss the merits of their projects meeting other state plans and strategies in their grant evaluation responses. Below is a list of some of the state’s efforts that applicants can use for reference:
- Department of Ecology’s Wetlands Program Plan
- Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Wildlife Action Plan
- Department of Natural Resources’ Urban and Community Forestry Action Plan
- Department of Natural Resources’ Natural Heritage Program
- Department of Transportation’s Bicycle Facilities and Pedestrian Walkways Plan
- Governor’s Healthiest Next Generation Initiative Call to Action
- Governor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Parks and Outdoor Recreation Recommendations
- Habitat and Recreation Lands Coordinating Group’s Forecast
- Invasive Species Council’s Strategic Plan
- Puget Sound Action Agenda
- Recreation and Conservation Funding Board’s Unifying Strategy
- 2018-2022 Recreation and Conservation Plan
- State Parks and Recreation Commission’s Acquisition and Development Strategy
- Statewide Strategy to Recover Salmon
Maintain and Improve Mapped Inventory
To assist with the priority to Assert Recreation and Conservation as a Vital Public Service and meet requirements in state law, the board shall seek funds to maintain and improve a mapped inventory of recreation and conservation areas. The mapped inventory is a necessary tool for the board to assess progress toward meeting its strategy to distribute funds equitably across the state described below. The mapped inventory is also a recommendation in the State Trails Plan and Community Athletic Facilities Plan.
To the extent practicable and funds available, the mapped inventory will be coordinated with the Recreation and Conservation Office’s public lands inventory. The inventory should be expanded to better identify local recreation and conservation lands, assign a lands classification system, and identify key facilities of interest to the board and the public such as athletic fields, swimming pools, nature viewing areas, and others.
Distribute Funds Equitably Across the State
The board seeks to distribute its funding across the state to connect more people with outdoor recreation activities. Striving to distribute funds equitably will foster broad support for continued funding of the board’s grant programs.
Using the mapped inventory described above, the board applied specific measures to help determine whether funding is distributed equitably. The board’s use of these measures is not intended to be prescriptive or used as a measure of success. The measures are a tool to inform the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board about the types of recreation facilities and access opportunities available and identify gaps in the system. This information can help inform its decisions about the way grants are allocated across the state by implementing specific grant program funding priorities.
The first two measures come from the Recreation and Conservation Office’s Level of Service model. This level of service is a measure of park equity and the distribution and access to parks based on distinct types of facilities available. 
The first measure assesses the system of local recreation resources based on 75 percent of the population living within:
- 5 mile of a neighborhood park or trail,
- 5 miles of a community park or trail, and
- 25 miles of a regional park or trail.
The second measure assesses the system of state and federal recreation resources based on 66 percent of the population living within one hour of a state of federal facility with public recreation access.
The third measure looks at population density to assess the concentration of people. In general, higher density may require more recreation opportunities to avoid crowding. Viewing density along with the availability of parks and trails is an indicator of access.
With the Level of Service map as a resource, the board will review the geographic distribution of its grants in order to target efforts to those places that are less likely to participate in their programs and where facilities may be needed. Depending on the gaps identified, the board may consider efforts to broaden participation in its grant programs such as streamlining application and planning requirements or changes to matching share requirements to encourage projects in underserved communities.
Specifically, this strategy to distribute funds equitably across the state supports the following priorities in the 2018-2022 Recreation and Conservation Plan:
- Improve the Equity of Parks, Trails, and Conservation Lands by focusing on areas that lack sufficient opportunities for outdoor recreation,
- Plan for Culturally Relevant Parks and Trails to Meet Changing Demographics by considering population growth and density when considering grant program priorities, and
- Assert Recreation and Conservation as a Vital Public Service by supporting opportunities statewide.
Improve Program Outreach
The board recognizes that support for its grant programs rests on building relationships across the spectrum of recreation users, service providers, and land managers. It is important for the board to understand the current challenges and opportunities that stakeholders face. The board will work toward improving outreach to encourage participation in its grant programs, policy development, and planning. Potential outreach efforts include improvements to the Web site, greater use of social media related to board activities, and board members and staff getting out to more events, conferences, and other opportunities for engagement. Of interest is connecting with organizations that have not participated in the board’s programs in the recent past.
The board also recognizes that smaller organizations have a harder time engaging in grant programs compared to larger agencies. Barriers to participation can include limited staff capacity, limited budgets and taxing capacity, slow growing or stagnant economies, population changes, distance to Olympia, and tackling the impacts of natural disasters in their community. The board will work to evaluate ways to make it easier for smaller communities to engage with its grant programs. Potential ideas include reducing grant planning requirements, creating grant opportunities for smaller communities, streamlining the grant application process, and reducing burdens to travel to Olympia.
Specifically, this strategy supports the following priorities in the 2018-2022 Recreation and Conservation Plan:
- Plan for Culturally Relevant Parks and Trails to Meet Changing Demographics by recognizing the changes in state demographics warrants innovative approaches to doing business, and
- Assert Recreation and Conservation as a Vital Public Service by supporting public and private recreation service providers across the state.
Changes to the Grant Programs
During the next 5 years, the board will consider the following changes to its grant programs in response to the recommendations in the 2018-2022 Recreation and Conservation Plan.
- Review the Matching Grant Policy
- Revise the Evaluation Criteria for the Land and Water Conservation Fund
- Revise the State Need Evaluation Question
- Review the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program Urban Wildlife Habitat Category
- Review the Matching Share Policy in the Youth Athletic Facilities Program
The board will review its policy that allows applicants to use state grants to match another state grant. The review will consider whether the policy is providing state funding assistance equitability and allowing for a competitive pool of applications across the state. The reason to conduct the review is to assess whether the policy creates a barrier to the board’s distribution of funds to the greatest number of projects, which is a policy goal in the board’s administrative rules. Reviewing this policy addresses the priorities to Sustain and Grow the Legacy of Parks, Trails, and Conservation Lands Trails and Improve the Equity of Parks, Trails, and Conservation Lands in the 2018-2022 Recreation and Conservation Plan.
The evaluation criteria for the Land and Water Conservation Fund is revised starting with the 2018 grant cycle. Click here to see the changes to the evaluation criteria for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The evaluation question that instructs applicants to address the needs in the state comprehensive outdoor recreation plan is revised starting with the 2018 grant cycle. This question will be included in the “need” criteria in the Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account program, Land and Water Conservation Fund program, Recreational Trails Program, and Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program’s Local Parks, Trails, Water Access categories only. The question in the Boating Facilities Program and Nonhighway and Off-road Vehicle Activities program will be removed as these programs are funded through user fees and target a specific recreation group.
State Need Evaluation Question
How will this project address the following priorities for underserved populations and health recommendations in the 2018-2022 Recreation and Conservation Plan?
To assist you in answering the questions about underserved populations and health recommendations, locate your project on the Grant Applicant Data Tool to determine whether your project is located in a census tract in which one or more of the populations listed below are present. You may also provide more specific data about the demographics and health conditions of the population within the service area of the proposed project.
- Demographic Measures for Underserved Populations
- The median household income level in the census tract where the project is located is below the median statewide household income level ($62,108 as of 2015)
- Based on percentage, there are more people of color in the census tract where the project is located than the statewide percentage (30 percent as of 2015)
- Based on percentage, there are more people with a disability in the census tract where the project is located than the statewide percentage (13 percent of the population as of 2015)
- Opportunities for Health Improvements
- The body mass index for ages 16-19 in the census tract where the project is located is higher than the state body mass index (22.94 as of 2015)
- The mortality rate in the census tract where the project is located higher than the statewide mortality rate (692 as of 2015)
See the changes to the evaluation criteria for the Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account.
See the changes to the evaluation criteria for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
See the changes to the evaluation criteria for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program Local Park Category.
See the changes to the evaluation criteria for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program Trails Category.
See the changes to the evaluation criteria for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program Water Access Category.
The board will review the Urban Wildlife Habitat category of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program to assess whether the policies and evaluation criteria are meeting the statutory intent. The board will also consider how the category can best serve residents’ interests in nature-based activities as described in the priorities to Improve the Equity of Parks, Trails, and Conservation Lands and Get Youth Outside.
The board seeks to adopt changes to the matching share policy in the Youth Athletic Facilities program. Proposed changes are under consideration starting with the 2018 grant cycle.
Implement Actions from the State Trails Plan
Implement Actions from the NOVA Program Plan
The board will implement recommendations from the Nonhighway and Off-road Vehicle Activities Program Plan.
- Provide Quality Opportunities and Maintain High Levels of Satisfaction for Nonhighway and Off-road Vehicle Activities Recreationists
- Respond to the Needs of Grant Applicants
- Ensure Equity in Nonhighway and Off-road Vehicle Activities Spending
- Streamline Grant-making
- Coordinate with Other State Agencies
- Improve Transparency in Eligibility
Implement from the State Athletic Facilities Plan
The board will implement recommendations from the State Athletic Facilities Plan.
- Maintain and Improve Mapped Inventory of Athletic Facilities
Implement Actions from the Boating Programs Plan
Implement action from Boating Programs Plan.
- Maintain High Satisfaction around Boating Experiences and Facilities
- Promote Environmental Stewardship and Public Safety in Boating
- Fund Development of Multiple Use Sites that Reduce User Conflict
- Obligate Grant Funds within a Single Biennium in the Boating Facilities Program – State Agency Category
- Support the Growing Paddle Sports Community and Facility Providers
- Modify Control and Tenure Requirements
 Washington State Legislature, “Revised Code of Washington 79A.25.005”, 2017, http://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=79A.25.005
 Recreation and Conservation Funding Board, “Recreation and Conservation Funding Board Strategic Plan”, 2016,
 Hedden, Brent, “2017 Washington State Recreation and Conservation Plan, Provider Survey Results”, 2016, http://www.rco.wa.gov/StateRecPlans/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Provider-Survey-Results.pdf
 Jostad, Jeremy, Schultz, Jeremy and Chase, Matthew, “State of Washington 2017 Assessment of Outdoor Recreation Demand Report”, 2017, http://www.rco.wa.gov/StateRecPlans/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Assessment-of-Demand.pdf
 Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee, “Proposed Study Questions: Measuring Outcomes of Habitat and Recreation Acquisitions and Regulations”, January, 2017, http://leg.wa.gov/jlarc/AuditAndStudyReports/Documents/HabitatandRecLands2016SO.pdf
 Briceno, Tania and Schundler, Greg, “Economic Analysis of Outdoor Recreation in Washington State” Economic analysis of Outdoor Recreation in Washington State, 2-14, https://rco.wa.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/EconomicAnalysisOutdoorRec.pdf
 Washington State Legislature, “Revised Code of Washington 79A.25.020”, 2017, http://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=79A.25.020
 AECOM, “Statewide Level of Service Recommendation: A Report on the Testing and Applicability of the Recreation and Conservation Office’s Proposed Level of Service Tools”, November 2010, http://www.rco.wa.gov/documents/rec_trends/LevelofServiceReport2010.pdf