The Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity (Go Utah) recently announced the most significant grant funding to date from the Utah Outdoor Recreation Grant (UORG) program.
The office will award $11 million in matching grants to 85 outdoor recreation infrastructure projects across Utah, totaling more than $90 million in project value — a 9:1 investment of state dollars. The UORG receives funding from the state transient room tax, and, in 2022, the Utah Legislature supplemented the grant fund with an additional $5 million in one-time funding.
“Outdoor recreation is one of the leading contributors to Utah’s high quality of life. It’s great to see outdoor recreation as a priority for leaders at the state level and in our local communities,” said Pitt Grewe, director of the Division of Outdoor Recreation. “It’s a privilege to support communities willing to invest in outdoor recreation infrastructure.”
This year, 23 of Utah’s 29 counties received project funding, and 26 counties have received funding since the grant began in 2015. Over half of this year’s outdoor recreation grant funding is going to rural Utah counties. Since the grant’s 2015 inception, over 60% of the grant funding has gone to rural Utah.
“With funding from strategic partners such as UORG, Helper City will be able to create better access to the Price River, enhance safety, and return the river to its most natural state,” said Helper City Mayor Lenise Peterman. Helper City received a $500,000 grant in this year’s cycle. “The river restoration project serves as a key anchor as we shift our economic position by maximizing our natural resources while improving recreational use for fishing, tubing, kayaking, and swimming.”
Since 2015, the Utah Outdoor Recreation Grant has awarded over $34.7 million to 399 projects for building or restoring outdoor recreation infrastructure across Utah. In addition to funding new recreation infrastructure, the grants fund projects that rehabilitate existing infrastructure. Funds are also used to create permanent infrastructure projects that support nature-based STEM learning or outdoor recreation skill building for K-12 youth. This year, 16 projects were awarded $1.5 million for restoration work, and nearly $100,000 for outdoor classrooms was awarded to 10 outdoor classroom projects.
Along with infrastructure for water recreation, snowmobiling, climbing, and other recreational activities, this year’s grant funding will help restore nearly 170 miles of existing multi-use trails and help build about 200 miles of multi-use trails. Bountiful City, which received $500,000, will use the funds to expand its trail network massively.
“Bountiful’s new trail system will more than double the miles of multi-use trails in the area and will seamlessly integrate with the Bonneville Shoreline Trail expansion to make south Davis County’s foothills one of the most sought-after destination spots for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and ATV use along the Wasatch Front,” according to the Bountiful Trails Advisory Committee.
“It’s an exciting time for recreation in Utah. Not only are more people enjoying our magnificent public lands, but with the creation of the new Division of Outdoor Recreation and the Outdoor Adventure Commission, Utah is leading the way in how we invest, support, and plan for one of our greatest resources, access to our natural spaces,” said Grewe. “Utah continues to be the national leader in prioritizing outdoor recreation and access to nature.”
Home to the first Office of Outdoor Recreation in the nation, recent legislation is expanding the roles and reach of the Utah office by merging the Division of Recreation and the Office of Outdoor Recreation into one entity – the Division of Outdoor Recreation – which will exist in the Department of Natural Resources. The Legislature created the Outdoor Adventure Infrastructure Restricted Account and this merger during its 2022 session. This new account will collect 1% of sales and use tax to construct new outdoor recreation infrastructure and upgrade or replace existing recreation infrastructure.
“Utah is an incredible place to live and visit, in large part because of the natural spaces and outdoor recreation opportunities. Investing in these places provides benefits almost immediately while also allowing communities to think big through multi-year funding of phased projects,” said Brian Steed, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources. “We’re excited to welcome the Office of Outdoor Recreation into the Department of Natural Resources. It’s a great time for recreation in this state, and we look forward to improving how we support Utah’s land, economy, and communities under the new Division of Outdoor Recreation.”
Learn more about the Utah Outdoor Recreation Grant here.