County seeks grant funding for sports park improvements

OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee County will apply for a federal grant for improvements at the county sports park.

At their Dec. 26 meeting, the Okeechobee County Commission authorized the submission of a 2020 Land and Water Conservation Fund Grant Application to finance future capital improvements at the Okeechobee County Sports Complex.

Some of the improvements that could be considered with this grant are acquisition of land for open space, park sites, conservation areas and trails, waterfront access, picnic areas, pools, ballfields, soccer fields, tennis, basketball and volleyball courts, playgrounds, outdoor theaters as well as boating and fishing features.

County staff has identified a Land and Water Conservation Fund Grant Application to pay for future improvements at the Okeechobee County Sports Complex that requires a 100% match from the county.

Any funds the county approves in the 2020 budget toward the sports park development can be used as a match. Renovation work done by county staff at the Okeechobee County Sports Complex can be also used in lieu of a cash match.

According to the staff report, the grant would use the funding of $400,000 in combination with budget allocated funds for expansion at the sports complex.

Other grants not funded by the United States Department of the Interior can also be used in lieu of a cash match.

This grant is funded by the U.S. Department of the Interior, administered by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, for the acquisition or development of recreational facilities.

Associated support facilities such as lighting, parking, restrooms, concessions and landscaping are eligible, but may not account for more than 50% of the project cost. The funds may be used for a combination of improvements.

The grant award notification will be in the summer of 2020, during the fiscal year 2020-21 budget process.

In a related matter, Denise Whitehead, community services director, reported the old racquetball courts have been demolished.

“The change at the sports complex has been noticeable as far as the way the space is being utilized and the amount of light coming into the playground area,” said Ms. Whitehead. “Vandalism and loitering has decreased quite a bit,” she added.

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