The Park Partnership grant program was established in 1995 to assist local not-for-profit groups with providing recreation facilities at public park areas county-wide.
“Originally, the program was known as the Sweat Equity Program with the County funding 100 percent of the improvements,” stated County Administrator, Lee Niblock. “However, the department changed the funding formula for the program a number of years ago requiring a 50 percent cash and / or in-kind match. That change made the program a true private / public partnership while instilling a sense of ownership to the citizens with their parks and the improvements.”
Over the past 16 years, more than $961,000 has been awarded to nearly 65 organizations. The program is limited to fixed capital improvements that are open and available to all Marion County citizens. The grant cannot cover maintenance or operating equipment such as uniforms, balls and bats, or mowing equipment. Eligible groups include non-profit organizations who operate recreation facilities, Municipal Services Taxing Units, Municipalities and community centered public school sites.
In 2011, five community groups were awarded funding including Big Sun Youth Soccer, Blue Sink Community Club, Cal Ripken, Mike Giffin Memorial Park and the Rotary Sportsplex of Marion County.
“The Rotary Sportsplex is home to more than 1,000 players who participate in baseball and soccer each year. Through this Board of County Commissioner’s approved program, the Sportsplex Board was granted funding for a playground unit several years ago and an open air pavilion during this last grant cycle. This new pavilion will not only protect families from the sun and rain, but will provide a meeting area for our players, coaches and volunteers,” stated Harvey Vandeven, Rotary Sportsplex Board Treasurer.
Big Sun Youth Soccer President, Brian Behan reported, “The county’s Park Partnership program provided a new concession stand and indoor meeting room...We were able to complete our project without compromising quality or our player’s safety.”
The grant cycle is opened from June 1 through July 31 of each year. The application can be obtained on line at www.marioncountyfl.org/parks or by contacting the Parks and Recreation Department at 352-671-8560.