Park funds at risk of drying up amid budget crisis

CITY HALL — The renovation of a historic barn in Deukmejian Wilderness Park, a new mini park in one of the city’s densest neighborhoods, new hiking trails — millions in state grants have allowed Glendale to build all over town, but budget constraints in Sacramento could bring aid to a trickle and force local officials to get more creative.

Community Services & Parks officials have secured nearly $13 million in local, state and federal grant funding to build projects that otherwise would have had to come on the city’s dime. And Glendale’s has been able to get the money despite a highly competitive market.

“These grants don’t fall out of the sky,” Councilman Frank Quintero said at a City Council meeting last month. “You can imagine the competition at the state and federal level, and yet year after year they manage to bring these grants to the city of Glendale.”

But that’s when there’s money to go after. With state lawmakers grappling with multi-billion dollar deficits, the amount of available grant funding is dwindling, especially as bond revenues begin to run out, officials said.

“The future does not look as bright as our current portfolio,” Community Services & Parks Director Jess Duran said.

Many of the city’s current grant awards came from pools of money created by voter-approved bond measures.

The planned Maryland Avenue Park in South Glendale was one of 62 projects chosen out of more than 475 applications for $184 million in state funding born of a $5.4-billion bond approved by California voters in 2006.

At the time, city officials said South Glendale's abysmal proportion of park space, combined with the area's comparatively high number of low-income residents made the Maryland park a very competitive proposal.

Other projects that have benefited from bond funding include a planned walkway along the Glendale portion of the Los Angeles River and the new civic pool under construction and set to open this summer at Pacific Park. The city also uses bond funding to fund annual maintenance of the Glendale Sports Complex.

Now, most park-related bonds are set to expire with no similar funding sources on the radar, officials said, which will force parks officials to explore alternatives.

Senior administrative analyst Marc Stirdivant, who handles the Community Services & Parks Department’s grant applications, said by expanding the scope of parks projects — such as including areas of water conservation or transportation — a wider array of grants can be sought out.

“The future of park bond funding is not very promising,” Stirdivant said. “As a result, the department will be challenged to think creatively about future grant applications.”

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