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Land and Water Conservation Fund

What is the Land and Water Conservation Fund grant 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 for 50% of the cost of 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. Over $50 million has been provided to local agencies through the program. More than 30,000 acres of land have been acquired in Indiana with Land and Water Conservation Fund assistance for public outdoor recreation use and conservation.

What’s New in 2023?
New programmatic guidance from the National Parks Service has resulted in some key changes to the application and project administration processes. We’ve compiled all these changes into the 2023 LWCF Changes Quick Guide for our current grantee and future applicants’ convenience.

If you have questions about these changes after reviewing the Quick Guide and the 2023 LWCF Guidebook, please contact the LWCF Grant team at

Where are the funds from?
The main funding source for the LWCF grants comes from federal offshore oil lease revenues.

How is funding received?
Because the LWCF is a reimbursement program, the project sponsor does not receive the grant funds once the application has been approved. Rather, the sponsor is reimbursed 50% of the actual costs of the project. The sponsor must have the local matching 50% of the project costs available when the application is submitted. In order to receive the money reserved for the project, a reimbursement request must be submitted to your grant coordinator.

What are local sources of funding?
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 funding amounts
The Land and Water Conservation Fund local applicants may request amounts ranging from a minimum of $50,000 up to a maximum of $700,000. If any changes are made to the manual/application they will be posted by March. Applications are available online or upon request from the Community Grants & Trails Section. The application is required to be submitted or post-marked by June 1.

Who is eligible?
Only park and recreation boards established under Indiana law are eligible. The park and recreation board must also have a current 5-year master plan for parks and recreation on file, approved by the Community Grants & Trails Section.

Protecting your park Forever
All parks that are acquired or developed using Land and Water Conservation Fund grant assistance will be federally encumbered under the program, 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.

For further details regarding LWCF compliance and conversions, please review Chapter 8 of the LWCF Guidebook. If you have further questions, contact the LWCF Grant team at

Who administers the program?
Funds are provided through the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior, but the program is administered by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of State Parks.

What types of projects may be funded?
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 a 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 and interpretive facilities
  • Campgrounds
  • Fishing and hunting areas
  • Winter sports facilities
  • Amphitheaters and bandstands
  • Trails
  • Roads, restrooms, utilities, park maintenance buildings
  • Nature Centers

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 do I apply?
The LWCF Guidebook serves as the program manual and application. The forms required for the application are found in the guidebook appendix and in the list below.

There’s much more to an LWCF application than these forms alone. Prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to coordinate with the LWCF Grant Team prior to applying. This coordination usually consists of a pre-application meeting after the applicant has reviewed the LWCF Guidebook in full. To schedule your pre-application meeting, email the grants team at

The Community Grants and Trails section has guidelines for preparing 5-year park and recreation master plans.

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