Grant could cover county park improvements

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

The Dubois County Park Board is trying to take advantage of a newly-announced state grant to get an additional $1 million to $2 million for park renovations.

In December, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Next Level Trails grant funding. In the initial round, $20 million will be dispensed for local projects. The program requires a 20 percent match from the local agency and must be used for trails and trail amenities.

However, the application is due Feb. 15.

“I hate to rush us, but I hate to miss this opportunity,” Board President Christine Prior said at the park board’s meeting Tuesday.

The park board completed its conceptual park plan in October. The $3.3 million plan calls for adding more campsites, improving the trail system, adding a centralized playground area and adding amenities like parking, small picnic areas, restrooms, a pavilion, a welcome center and a sign. The plan was to complete the work over the next 14 or 15 years.

But if the county could get a grant, it could possibly cover the $350,000 cost for the trails and $1.4 million cost for amenities, which is more than half of the renovations estimate.

Having the improvements plan in place gives the county an advantage, as that is a needed component for obtaining a grant, Lisa Gehlhausen of Indiana 15 Regional Planning Commission explained. The company that designed the plan for the board, Hafer and Associates, is on the Indiana Department of Transportation’s list as a prequalified agency, which means the company could guide the park board through the grant process.

Gehlhausen told the board to check with Hafer to determine if the estimated costs of projects in the park plan meet INDOT specifications, which is needed to qualify for a grant.

Because the time between the grant announcement and the first-round deadline is so short, there may not be many communities that are ready to submit an application, Prior said. “We could have an advantage” if the park could submit an application in this first round, she said.

Board members wanted assurance that adding more campsites be part of the initial renovations because of the need. It’s not uncommon for campsites, especially RV campsites, to be completely full.

“We have to keep the campsites as a priority,” board member Jane Betz said. “We don’t want to drag that out. That is the reason we started this in the first place.”

Currently, the park board has $285,000 that can be used on capital improvements. The park could install the campsites that will be located on the south end of the park’s property for about $90,000, Prior said. That would leave almost $200,000 to dedicate to a match for the grant, she said.

Another option is to ask the Dubois County Council to agree to fund a match, on the condition that the county is awarded a grant, Gehlhausen said.

Board member Mark Denu, who also wants to do as many campsites as possible, said having this grant money would help speed up when the entire project is completed.

“It sounds like we have to try this,” he said.

Board members will talk to the Dubois County Council this month about committing to additional funding. The council’s meeting is at 4:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28, at the Dubois County Courthouse Annex, 602 Main St.

Prior will also talk to the Dubois County Commissioners about applying for a grant, which the commissioners must do since they own the land. The commissioners will meet at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, at the annex.

In the meantime, the park board is asking the public, especially people who live near the park or use park amenities, to submit a letter of support for the grant application. The letter should state why the park and trails are important to them, their family or their organization. Letters from organizations should be on the group’s letterhead.

Letters can be mailed to 4157 S. State Road 162, Huntingburg, Ind. 47542. They can also be attached in an email and sent to Prior at christine.prior@yahoo.com.




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