The Land and Water Conservation Program:
Participation in outdoor recreation activities is expanding so rapidly that park agencies often face a financial burden in attempting to provide enough facilities to keep up with the demand. Congress passed the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1965 to assist eligible governmental units in providing new outdoor recreation opportunities. The LWCF was permanently funded in 2020.
The LWCF is a matching assistance program that provides grants up to 50% of the cost for the acquisition and/or development of outdoor recreation sites and facilities. Since the program began, Indiana has received approximately $90 million in federal funds. The allocation usually is divided between Department of Natural Resources projects and local government park projects, depending on funding levels. More than $50 million has been provided to local agencies through the program. More than 30,000 acres of land have been acquired in Indiana with LWCF assistance for public outdoor recreation use and conservation.
LWCF local applicants may request amounts ranging from a minimum of $250,000 up to a maximum of $1 million. Applications are available online. The application is required to be submitted via email by Aug. 1.
Reimbursements will not be paid out until after a state grant agreement is fully approved, approximately three months after federal approval. Project sponsors must submit a reimbursement request to the project grant coordinator on a regular basis (twice per year, preferred). Reimbursements are typically for 50% of total project expenditures submitted on the request, until the final reimbursement which may be a different percentage. Five percent of the grant amount is held until the project is fully completed and approved for close-out by the grant coordinator.
Local Match Sources:
Project sponsors may use a combination of appropriations, bond issues, force account labor, and donations of land, cash, labor, materials, or equipment to match the grant. Other federal funding sources generally cannot be used as the local share of the project.
Grant applications may consist of land acquisition and/or facility construction or renovation for local public parks for outdoor recreation. New parks or additions to existing parks may be funded.
The land acquisition or development may not be started until final approval is received from the federal government. All land to be developed must be controlled by the park board through direct ownership. Examples of types of projects include:
- Acquiring park or natural area
- Picnic areas
- Sports and playfields, such as playgrounds, ballfields, court facilities and golf courses
- Water-oriented facilities for boating, swimming, and access to lakes, rivers, and streams
- Natural areas, nature centers, or interpretive facilities
- Fishing and hunting areas
- Winter sports facilities
- Amphitheaters and bandstands
- Roads, restrooms, utilities, or park maintenance buildings
All facilities should be universally designed for persons with disabilities and the park board’s facilities, programs and activities must be open to the public without discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age or disability.
How to Apply:
The LWCF Guidebook includes seven handbooks as step-by-step guides. Please use these documents and the Supplemental Forms to complete your application.
- Program Overview
- Environmental, Cultural, and Historical Coordination
- Land Acquisition
- Plan Review & Construction Handbook
- Procurement, Billing, Closeout
- Post-Completion Compliance & Stewardship
To be eligible for LWCF grant funds, the applicant must have established a public park and recreation board according to Indiana law. The park and recreation board must have a current five-year park and recreation master plan approved by the Indiana DNR. If you do not have a five-year park and recreation master plan, please see the links at the bottom of this page.
Project sponsors are required to have a pre-application meeting with the Grants Team. Meetings may be on site or virtual. Email LWCF@dnr.IN.gov early to discuss the proposed project and application process.
Due Date for Applications:
Applications must be received at LWCF@dnr.IN.gov by Aug. 1.
- Application checklist
- Article XXI: Build America, Buy America Regulations
- Assurance of Compliance Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VI Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Age Discrimination Act of 1975
- Boundary map criteria
- Certification Regarding Debarment, Suspension, Ineligibility, and Voluntary Exclusion
- Closeout map criteria
- DNR Early Coordination Recommendations Certification of Compliance
- DNR Subrecipient Information Sheet
- Grant billing form instructions
- LWCF Project Timeline Template
The Community Grants and Trails section has guidelines for preparing 5-year park and recreation master plans.
Protecting LWCF Assisted Properties Forever:
All parks that are acquired or developed using LWCF grant assistance require federal encumbrance be included on each deed, thereby protecting the property solely for outdoor recreation use in perpetuity (i.e., forever). This encumbrance protects LWCF properties from being developed or sold for non-outdoor recreation uses such as but not limited to building a library, fire station, or cell tower on the property. Selling LWCF protected land or building noncompliant structures within the encumbrance boundary may result in a conversion of use.