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Federal windfall would

bring park improvements

By BRIAN BLACKLEY

Managing Editor

A bill that would bring $7.5 million to the state of Alabama to improve the conditions of municipal and state parks and recreational facilities has passed the House and has brought a smile to the face of Troy’s Dan Smith.

Smith, known locally as the director of the Troy Parks and Recreation Department, has made a name for himself on state and national levels as the president of the Alabama Association of Park and Recreational Directors.

The announcement of the passage of House Resolution 701 came at a time, Smith said, that couldn’t be better.

"During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Land and Water Conservation Fund was used to make improvements in area parks. Funding during this time was used to do a lot of work locally," Smith said. "Since then, the funds dropped significantly for the states, an in some years, Alabama got nothing."

According to a report prepared by the Appalachian Mountain Club, the funds for Alabama peaked in 1979 and 1980. During that two-year period, federal funding exceeded $16 million and state funding topped at around $15 million. Subsequent years were grim, however. In 1982, federal funding hit $9 million for the state, but state funds were less than $3 million. By 1999, less than $3 million went to the state between federal and state sources.

"This is a tremendous achievement," Smith said. "The fact that our state would stand to see dramatic numbers of dollars being spent to improve local and state parks means a lot for the state and for the community."

Over the years, Pike County has been able to benefit tremendously from LWCF dollars, to the tune of nearly $1 million.

In 1976, Brundidge Parks received $76,000 in federal funds for projects. That same year, Troy State University Park netted nearly a half million dollars for work.

Two years later, Franklin Street Parks were built in Troy largely through LCWF proceeds totaling nearly $200,000.

In 1979, Troy City Parks saw nearly $200,000 in funding, and in 1988, $10,000 in federal funds built an exercise trail at Murphree Park.

"This money has done wonders over the years for local residents," Smith said. "But as the figures show, we have seen virtually nothing here in federal funds for park work since 1988. This is a tremendous milestone and represents a sum of from federal sources to do work in the state that is strong enough to get a lot of things accomplished."

Though there’s no way yet to determine how much money Troy, Brundidge and Pike County will see from these sources, Smith is optimistic that local projects will be undertaken if the bill passes the Senate.

Thanks to his position with the Park and Recreation state association, Smith will have some influence over where dollars are allocated. He said he expects to see huge windfalls hit some of the more urban areas of the state that are experiencing desperate needs, but he says, "We will work to get our share too."

The measure, a $450,000,000 allotment of funds is not yet complete. The Senate version of the bill has not yet passed, but Smith remains optimistic.

The bill would dedicate $2.8 billion each year of the oil and gas fees to be split among various programs that have gone unfunded. The federal contribution of $450,000,000 would be matched by state funds, with $125 million of the total going to the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Program.

"The

way it works is that we would see the money go to a variety of programs, but what is significant is that our state would see a lot of money for programs including revitalization of state parks and urban parks as well as our municipal parks" Smith said. "A lot could be done with this money and we would certainly stand to benefit from it locally."