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The North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) is a state funded grant program for land acquisition and development of parks. PARTF is the primary source of funding to build and renovate facilities in the state parks as well as to buy land for new and existing parks. The PARTF program provides dollar-for-dollar grants to local governments. Recipients use the grants to acquire land and/or to develop park and recreational projects that serve the general public. The North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation administers the program.
The Connect NC Bond package, approved in March 2016, included one-time funding of $3 million for parks and recreation grants to benefit children and/or veterans with disabilities. Local governments, including some public authorities, are eligible to apply for the matching grants. The program is administered through the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation and the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. The matching grants can be used to build special facilities or adapt existing facilities that meet the unique needs of children and/or veterans with physical and/or developmental disabilities. Local governments can request a maximum of $500,000 with each application and must match the grant with at least one dollar of local funds for every four dollars in grant funds.
Rowan County Parks and Recreation Division applied for the PARTF Grant with the assistance of former grant writer Kellie Cartwright. If awarded the grant, the recommendation was to use the funds to enhance the playground at Ellis Park to make it more inclusive so children with/without disabilities as well as family members can play and interact together. The playground equipment would allow access not only onto the unit, but throughout the unit and playground as well. Also, accessible swings, ground level play components, and rubber play safe surfacing. According to 2014 data, Rowan County has approximately 12-15 children with disabilities per 1000 residents.
Out of the five County Parks, Ellis Park was selected for the following reasons: Current playground unit at Ellis Park is over 23 years old. It has ramp access, but nothing else to encourage inclusive play. The parts for the unit are no longer available. The swings are outdated. The other play components have minimal-to-no accessibility. The ground is covered in mulch which makes access difficult for children utilizing wheelchairs and other assistive devices. Ellis Park is heavily used, it services the Northwest side of Rowan County, there is minimal-to-no inclusive play opportunities in the area, and the Therapeutic Recreation program operates out of Ellis Park.
On March 23, 2017 Gov. Roy Cooper announced $3 million in grants to fund local parks and recreation projects designed for children and veterans with disabilities. The N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Authority considered 45 grant applications requesting nearly $9.5 million. Rowan County was 1 of 18 chosen to receive the grant funding. Rowan County received $264,959 for the Ellis Park Accessible Playground Renovation Project; with matching County funds of $66,240 totaling $331,199.
At this time, the old play equipment has been removed and the playground area is closed for renovation. Soon, the new play equipment will be installed including a fully accessible play fort, swings, slides, inclusive orbit (merry-go-round), a round team swing, buddy benches, and more.