SUNBURY — A potential project to add a gravel trail to one of the village’s parks failed to materialize recently.
The Sunbury Parks and Recreation Committee has discussed trail grant funding through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Engineer Dave Parkinson said two grants were available this year. One is the Recreation Trail Fund (RTF), with up to $150,000 available or 80%, with the remaining percentage paid by the village. The other is the Clean Ohio Trails Fund (COTF), with up to $500,000 available annually or 75% for 24 projects statewide.
The grant application deadline for both programs was March 15. By Aug. 1, the state makes its determination, and grant monies are awarded by the end of the year. The awardees then have 15 months to complete the project.
It was mentioned at the Jan. 6 meeting that “the Up-ground Reservoirs project would be a good candidate for” a RTF grant, the meeting minutes read.
The Reservoirs at 250 Otis Street are described as “Sunbury’s hidden gem” on the village website. “This park is over 20 acres of (two) reservoirs great for fishing (summer from dawn to dusk, license required). No boating or swimming allowed.”
During a special meeting of the parks and recreation committee on Jan. 15, Parkinson estimated a 6-foot-wide crushed limestone path on top of the levees around the perimeter of the reservoirs would be $182,000-$208,000. It was recommended the village apply for full funding ($150,00) and offer to pay a higher 30% match, or $55,000-$60,000.
The matter was brought up at the Sunbury Finance Committee meeting on Jan. 20, before the Sunbury Village Council meeting. Council later authorized moving forward with the application.
However, at its March 3 meeting, council was informed the parks committee decided against pursuing the Recreation Trail Grant “due to negative feedback from ODNR.”
All is not lost, though. Another program through ODNR, NatureWorks, offers up to $150,000 grants, with a 25% required match. Sunbury will try to secure a grant by those means, with an application deadline of June 1.
In an email to The Gazette, Parkinson explained what happened.
“We originally recommended the RTF because we thought it would be a good fit. As part of our normal due diligence as we develop applications, we called ODNR to discuss the project and get their feedback on how to best position it. They said that we could submit under RTF, but suggested we might consider applying under NatureWorks and/or Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) because those sources seemed a much better fit for what we were trying to accomplish. We gave this further consideration and agreed with them.
“Of the two suggestions, in our opinion, NatureWorks is the better program due to project scope and timing. The larger, dedicated trails programs (RTF and COTF) focus on trails that connect different destinations, whereas NatureWorks and LWCF are geared toward making positive impact in one singular location, creating meaningful projects within one specified park. “
“Since NatureWorks’ inception, the grant has funded over 2,300 public park projects in all 88 counties,” states the program’s website.
Also during the virtual meeting on Jan. 6, Councilman Tim Gose said Sunbury received another request to dedicate a tree in the village. The last dedication took place at Sunbury Memorial Park, and the Town Square is among the other places where a memorial tree could be placed. The village “may want to consider formalizing a program for donating trees, fixtures, and other amenities at set dollar amounts,” the meeting minutes read.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.