The Village of Wellington will apply for a grant through the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for improvements to Essex Park, a neighborhood park at 1250 Essex Drive in the South Shore community.
“We have multiple grants that we apply for, and this is the 2017 Land & Water Conservation Fund grant,” said Tanya Quickel, Wellington’s director of administrative and financial services. “The purpose of it is for the acquisition or development of recreational facilities.”
The grant is administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
“Other facilities that it could include are picnic areas, trails, all kinds of ball fields and things like that,” Quickel said of the grant program. “It can include some less exciting things like lighting and restrooms and stuff like that, but these [neighborhood] parks don’t have restrooms.”
Essex Park will see updates to add new facilities and, in particular, water access with the addition of a dock or pier.
The same grant program was used to update and renovate the Wellington Community Center and, most recently, Dorchester Park.
“It’s a 100 percent match, and we apply for $200,000,” Quickel said. “That means that we would have to spend $400,000.”
The Department of the Interior provides $200,000, which will then be matched by the village through its general fund.
“We have funding every year for our neighborhood parks,” Quickel said. “So, this park would be included in that, and that would be in the budget we will be submitting in 2018.”
If the application is accepted by the department at the state level, it will then be put onto a list that goes through the state legislature and is funded as part of the state’s budget, Quickel said.
In order for the application to be submitted, it first had to go before a village board for approval. The Architectural Review Board met Wednesday, April 19 and approved the application to be submitted to the state.
The presentation was all that was necessary to allow the application to be sent for its hopeful approval.
“The biggest part of it is that it has to be associated with water, because it is the Land & Water Conservation Fund,” Quickel said. “The biggest part will be the dock feature for the neighborhood park.”
Currently, Dorchester Park is under its construction phase. The community center has been finished, and it has the water access and pier that allows for more public activity that it previously did not have.
“We’re very happy to have those advantages. It helps our neighborhood parks, giving them some expanded facilities,” Quickel said.
All park and waterfront areas that have been updated or added through the program have a sign stating that it was funded through grants from the LWCF.
Wellington has more than 20 neighborhood parks, and close to 30 parks for public use. “Not all of them are necessarily near water, but this program specifically focuses on that,” Quickel said.
The updates for Essex Park will help to expand and update the area for its immediate residents.
“As neighborhood parks, there is not a lot of parking. Some of them have no parking,” Quickel said. “They’re just for pretty much their neighborhoods, so that people have something very accessible, very close to their homes to go to, spend a little time and enjoy it with children.”
The purpose of the LWCF is to support the protection of federal public lands and waters that include national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and recreation areas. The investments are made to allow for public access, improve recreational opportunities and preserve ecosystems as a benefit to local communities.
Wellington continues to look to expand its parks’ features and accessibilities. “We may have other applications in future years,” Quickel said.
The village will pursue this grant and others in the future for its public spaces.
“It’s part of our process. We actively and aggressively pursue grants. This one we’ve had success with,” Quickel said. “This is the third in recent times, and we hope it will be successful, too.”
Quickel thinks people living near Essex Park will be pleased when the proposed updates are applied.
“I think the park will be very much refreshed, and they will, I think, be very pleased. It will have some expanded facilities in it as well,” Quickel said. “The dock will be a new feature. That will be a very nice feature for them to have.”