Parks Foundation of Clark County awards $192K in grants

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

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Ridgefield kids will swing, East Vancouver grown-ups will work a new fitness circuit, pickleball will hit Washougal and needy children will enjoy fully funded access to Vancouver recreation programs — including swimming lessons, field trips and outdoor sports — thanks to the latest round of community grants from the Parks Foundation of Clark County.

At its annual luncheon on Tuesday, the Parks Foundation announced grants totalling $192,157 for local parks, trails and recreation programs. Some of these grants were underwritten by corporate or foundation donors interested in specific locations or programs; the Parks Foundation also bundles many smaller donations from individual people.

Since 2009, the Parks Foundation has distributed more than $350,000 through its Community Grants program, which was launched in response to recession-driven cutbacks and layoffs in local parks departments.

"It's definitely backfilling where budget cuts have left some huge gaps," said Parks Foundation Executive Director Cheri Martin.

Here's a rundown of the grants that were announced Tuesday.

• New swing set in Abrams Park, Ridgefield: $4,100. The city of Ridgefield will be able to replace the aged, safety-challenged swing set in its largest and most popular community park with a new swing set that meets the latest safety standards and accommodates more children.

• Free Summer Playground Program in Battle Ground parks: $9,500. Sponsored by Riverview Community Bank with support from Banner Bank and Wal-Mart.

• Fitness circuit in Homestead Park, East Vancouver: $10,000. Wooden fitness stations were installed in this small park in the Cascade Highlands neighborhood more than 25 years ago, but deteriorated and eventually were removed. This grant will provide new equipment.

• Washougal tennis-to-pickleball conversion: $10,108. Washougal requested money to repair and convert crumbling Hathaway Park tennis courts to pickleball courts in time for a July pickleball tournament. This grant will help get the nearly $40,000 job done. Pickleball courts are expected to "breathe new life" into Hathaway Park, according to the Parks Foundation. (What's pickleball? A mashup of tennis and badminton that's growing in popularity these days.)

• Vancouver Lake trail loop extension: $10,800. An additional, ADA-accessible mile of the existing Vancouver Lake loop trail will offer birdwatching, forest exploration and great views of the lake. This grant came entirely from the Dorothy Langsdorf Trail Fund and the Langsdorf Family.

• Yacolt skate park, final phase: $21,650. Phase one of the Yacolt Town Park skate park was supported by a Parks Foundation grant in 2012.

• Washougal River Greenway observation deck: $30,377. Camas will build an observation deck along the greenway, both to expand current trail use and to protect the environment. This grant was supported by Georgia Pacific, Tidewater and a $15,000 gift from Mr. and Mrs. Vern Schanilec of Washougal.

• Free summer playground programs at Evergreen and Marrion Elementary School parks: $31,000. Vancouver Parks and Recreation has been keen to maintain these positive programs for needy youth in city neighborhoods. Major support came in the form of a $26,000 grant from the Tod and Maxine McClaskey Family Foundation; support also came from Audigy and Wal-Mart.

• "Everybody Plays!" scholarships: $64,622. Grants and sponsorships from the Bauman Family and Bauman Chiropractic, the Nike Employee Grant Fund, Nautilus Inc. and Waste Connections will ensure that low-income children can participate in recreational programs at Vancouver's Marshall and Firstenburg community centers.

All donations to the Parks Foundation are tax-deductible and can be dedicated to specific programs, from recreation offerings to parkland purchases. Call 360-487-8370, to learn more, or visit www.parksfoundation.us.