COLUMBUS - State and federal grants to help develop and improve public access for outdoor recreation facilities have been approved by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

COLUMBUS State and federal grants to help develop and improve public access for outdoor recreation facilities have been approved by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

"Playgrounds, basketball courts and trails are all a great way of encouraging people of all ages to enjoy time in the great outdoors," said ODNR Director James Zehringer.

"We welcome the opportunity to aid and assist these communities and we hope other communities will take advantage of these great opportunities," he added.

The NatureWroks and Land and Water Conversation Fund grants, which ODNR administers, will fund 92 community-based projects to create and renovate parks and outdoor recreation areas. The grants will support the acquisition of more than 30 acres of green space, the development and improvement of 28 playgrounds, 11 shelters and gazebos, nine park restrooms and a dozen of other local improvement project, many of which will make Ohio's park infrastructure more accessible for all Ohioans.

ODNR has recommended that more than $2 million in NatureWorks grants and more than $500,000 in LWCF grants be awarded to communities across the state.

NatureWorks provides up to 75 percent reimbursement assistance to local government subdivisions, such as townships, villages, cities, counties, park districts, joint recreation districts and conservancy districts, for acquisition, development and rehabilitation of recreational areas. The projects are funded through the Ohio Parks and Natural Resources Bond Issue, which was approved by Ohio voters in November 1993. Additional legislation authorized the creation of the NatureWorks Grant Program.

Similarly, the LWCF provides up to 50 percent reimbursement assistance for state and local government subdivisions for the acquisition, development and rehabilitation of recreational areas. Many local parks, trails, pools and other outdoor recreation facilities that Ohioans enjoy today were made possible through the federal program. Since its inception in 1965, more than $150 million has been awarded to projects in Ohio.