The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is a federal grant program that was established in 1965 through the National Parks Service within the Department of the Interior.
The LWCF stateside assistance grant program has provided funding for community outdoor recreation projects across Nebraska for nearly 40 years. Many ballfields, swimming pools, playgrounds, picnic shelters and natural areas have been assisted by the LWCF program. To date, more than 365 political subdivisions within the state of Nebraska have benefited from the LWCF program.
State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan
The 2021-2025 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) is a resource for Nebraska communities and recreation professionals planning for outdoor recreation. SCORP evaluates the supply and demand for outdoor recreation opportunities and summarizes state and regional demographics. It also provides guidance on future development of park lands through the goals and Land and Water Conservation fund priority projects. Communities and outdoor recreation professionals are encouraged to use the data and guidance within the plan to guide their outdoor recreation planning efforts over the next five years.
Applying for funds
The Nebraska Unicameral, per statute 37-427, assented to the provisions of the LWCF Act to assist the state and political subdivisions. The State Statute also designates the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and staff to perform all such acts on behalf of the State of Nebraska to carry out the purpose and objectives of the Act. The law also stipulates that 60% of Nebraska’s apportionment be made available to political subdivisions, while the Commission is authorized to use the remaining 40% on agency-sponsored projects. The Commission meets annually to consider staff recommendations for allocating the federal funds to various projects across the state.
Eligible applicants may include a city, village, county, natural resource district or other political subdivision. Examples of eligible projects include: playgrounds, picnic facilities, trails, ballfields, soccer fields, shelter houses, tennis courts, multi-purpose courts and modest related support facilities. Acquisition of land for a new park of for land that is adjacent to an existing park is eligible for Fund assistance. Land to be donated by a private individual or a corporation after federal project approval is also eligible for Fund assistance. Professional consultant services to prepare the application or provide cost estimates are eligible for Fund assistance.
Fund assistance is restricted to public outdoor recreation facilities located on land owned or controlled by the project sponsor.
Section 6(f)(3) of the Act requires that all Fund-assisted property be used and retained for public outdoor recreation uses in perpetuity. Project sponsor will be required to replace a Fund-assisted property that is converted to other than public park uses, either during or after project completion.
All project elements must meet applicable building codes and potential sponsor should engage, if needed, professional assistance during the application stage to ensure codes are met and cost estimates are current. Professional assistance is also recommended in preparing both the application and the required supporting documents.
Project sponsors are required to have their 50% share of the total project costs on hand since sponsors must initially pay for the facilities before requesting reimbursement from the federal government. It is highly recommended to have all funds on hand to expedite the project.
The sponsor’s 50% share may derive from cash, private donations, taxes, bequests or from other political subdivisions.
New and future utility service lines for a facility must be placed underground, and proposed facilities may not be located under any existing powerlines.
Except for consultant fees, eligible project costs must be incurred following federal project approval. Consultant feed incurred prior to federal approval may be reimbursed at a future time.
All project sponsors must display a permanent recognition sign on the project site. The Commission will provide you with a sample sign.
The governing body of a political subdivision must assure the state and federal governments that it will commit both the financial resources to complete the project and operate and maintain the funded site in a setting that is both attractive and safe for public use.
The project sponsor will assure that all programs and facilities, where it is possible, are accessible to, and usable by, the disabled. The sponsor is also expected to keep facilities open for public use at reasonable times of the year.
Potential sponsors and applicants should review the National Park Service’s Land and Water Conservation Funds State Assistance Program – Federal Financial Assistance Manual for more details related to project eligibility and compliance.
Eligible sponsors are encouraged to register and apply at ngpcgrants.outdoornebraska.gov/
The governing board of a political subdivision will be required to pass a resolution at a public meeting to participate in the LWCF program, complete an application form and supply all requested supplemental information as required by staff.
Please call 402.471.5283 if you have any questions about the LWCF grant program.