After waiting for more than a year on confirmation of federal funding for a new park in Hall County, it appears the National Park Service is coming through with the money.
The park service announced in a press statement on Monday that Hall County will receive part of a total distribution on $11.7 million to benefit underserved communities across the country. Hall County's grant should total $633,231, according to the press information.
The money will be used to help the county build Butler Park on a 13-acre tract of land behind Fieldale Farms on Athens Street. The grant money will fund a new playground, a pavilion, restrooms, a basketball court, a splash pad, parking, exercise/nature trails, signage, landscaping, utilities and lighting.
In October, Hall County Commissioner Jeff Stowe, who represents the district where the park is planned, had asked fellow commissioners to draft a letter to federal officials, asking permission for the county to go ahead and start work on the park without jeopardizing federal funding. At the time
, Stowe said the community had grown frustrated waiting on the grant award to be announced.
When contacted earlier this week about the press release from the National Park Service, Stowe said he was holding off on any comments until the county received a confirmation letter about the funding.
The grant to build Butler Park is one of 18 Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) program grants for projects to develop brand new or improve existing parks in economically disadvantaged urbanized areas in 16 states.
"The benefits derived from connections to our public lands and parks are endless," said National Park Service Deputy Director David Vela in the press statement. "These grants will expand important recreational opportunities in neighborhood parks and public lands for Americans in underserved areas."
The ORLP program grew out of a 2014 Congressional directive to create a nationally competitive grant program to complement the 54-year old Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) State Assistance Program.
The grants must be matched at a minimum one to one with state, local and private dollars, at least doubling the impact of the federal investment in these communities.