WENATCHEE — Chelan County pulled in over $8 million in grants awarded through the state Recreation and Conservation Office — tops in the state.
Approved by Gov. Jay Inslee last week, the funds include grants from eight different state and federal sources.
The county likely did so well for three reasons, said Recreation and Conservation spokeswoman Susan Zemek.
There are a lot of recreational opportunities in Chelan County; agencies here applied for a lot of grants; and their requests were of high quality, she said.
“In order to get funded, they would have to be in the top third or half in their category, and they were,” she said.
Those funds coming into Chelan County include:
$1 million to rebuild the boat launch at Lake Chelan State Park
$214,000 to plan for new boat launches at Lake Wenatchee and Fish Lake
Nearly $730,000 to the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest to maintain trails, pay for winter, backcountry and climbing rangers, and plan for a new trail system near Wenatchee.
The award also includes some previously announced big ticket items, including $1.25 million to conserve the Stemilt Basin; $2.74 million to expand the Upper Dry Gulch preserve; and $1.86 million to buy land in Camas Meadows.
Statewide, some $86 million will be spent to build parks and boating facilities, maintain trails and protect wildlife habitat.
King and Pierce counties won the next highest amounts, at just over $6 million each.
The grants come through eight state and federal sources and are approved by the state Legislature and funneled through the state Recreation and Conservation Office.
One of the bigger projects in Chelan County will be rebuilding the boat launch at Lake Chelan State Park, which sees 254,000 visitors a year. The project includes adding a second launch ramp, two handling docks, and moorage docks.
Nearly a dozen smaller grants will go to the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, which applied for 30 grants, and won 23, said Brenda Yankoviak, assistant recreation program manager.
They include $41,350 for a seasonal ranger for two years to patrol popular climbing areas near Leavenworth.
The ranger will educate climbers about minimizing damage, assess the number of climbers and the need for signs, and establish partnerships with climbing organizations and volunteer groups to protect the climbing areas that draw tens of thousands of climbers each year.
Separate grants also fund back country and snowmobile rangers on the Entiat Ranger District, and a snow ranger on the Wenatchee River Ranger District.
The Wenatchee River Ranger District also got $55,000 to develop a plan to build 50 to 60 miles of trails for hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders in the Number 2 Canyon area, where there are currently no Forest Service trails.
Yankoviak said many of the grants to maintain trails and campgrounds are continuing funds that they apply for every two years.
She said they’ve been successful at receiving those funds because they are able to provide matching dollars from user fees, including forest passes and campground fees.
She said half of the salaries for employees who work in recreation on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest come from grants and fees, including 90 percent of the wages for temporary employees.
She said 95 percent of every dollar taken in from fees stays on the forest to be reinvested.
“The demand is for increased recreation, so we need to continue to figure out ways to maintain our trails and provide good opportunities,” she said.