Next year, Lamar could receive a GoCO grant in the neighborhood of $5M, earmarked mostly for outdoor activity projects for local youth. Lamar has already qualified for the Inspire Initiative planning grant of $100,000 needed to formulate a comprehensive application to the state by next August. The implementation plan will include places, programs and pathways within the community as well as a budget supporting those plans. That application is expected to involve several departments from the City of Lamar as well as representatives from the Healthy Places Initiative. Healthy Places has committed $200,000 towards the estimated $500,000 matching grant that would accompany the bulk of the Inspire Initiative funding. The city will review the application before taking action on it at the December 14th council meeting.
Lamar Parks and Recreation Director, Rick Akers, told the council during a recent work session, that there will be a lot of work needed from various departments between now and the submission deadline. He also felt that the balance of the matching grant could be apportioned at $70,000 for each of the next three years from the city’s Conservation Trust Fund as well as from other groups that would benefit from the grant.
The need for the Inspire project was outlined in a press release from Heathy Places, stating, “American kids today spend an average of four to seven minutes a day outside in unstructured play. This is over 50 percent less time than their parents did. This is a growing concern to a body of research that says the outdoors benefit a child physically, socially, emotionally and cognitively. If our children don’t experience nature, they don’t value it.”
City Administrator, John Sutherland, told the work session, “We should discuss the expectations for the grant, the amount of work involved in the process and potential impact on the city’s parks and current programs.” As the Healthy Places organization has a term limited grant itself, the City of Lamar will become the fiscal agent for the grant. Akers added that before the Inspire application is sent off next year, every consideration should be made to anticipate the impact to the community. He said one difference in grant funding is GoCO reimburses after the fact, after invoices have been sent to the state instead of a bulk payment to the recipient.
He said the council needs to be kept aware of developments at each step of the process before plans for a project are ready for submission. Akers suggested there would be a loss of time and effort if the council expresses some concerns only after they received final plans for consideration instead of being involved in developments as they progress. As an example he noted that because of lack of funding, the city’s Tree Farm and nursery area wasn’t considered in the strategic master plan for parks and trails, but that will alter with the additional funding that could be attained.
Mayor Stagner expressed concerns about future expenses the city could entail for continued maintenance of some of the projects the council approves for development. “With the exception of the schools, any equipment we purchase will become the property of the city,” he explained. It was noted that each agency, such as the school district, would be required to supply their own percentage of matching funds for their expenditures. Another concern was expressed on the timing of projects that could overlap with street improvements for the city, as an example. Pat Mason, City Public Works Director, said funds would be wasted if a project were completed only to have a road improvement project undo the earlier work.
Prioritizing for discussion, some of the current projects in the master plan, was suggested by councilman Kirk Crespin, such as ‘Wheels Park’ or the proposed skateboard park recommended for either Bi-Centennial Park, Willow Creek Park or the horseshoe pits east of the Enchanted Forest. That opened a lengthy discussion on the pros and cons of each of the three areas by the council, an indication that a lot of ideas will be forthcoming over the next several months.
By Russ Baldwin
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