Governor signs legislation enabling changes in investment funding for the Delaware Land and Water Conservation Trust Fund

Bellevue State Park – Joined by DNREC Secretary David Small, Lewes Mayor Theodore Becker, and Delaware State Parks Director Ray Bivens, as well as state legislators and members of Delaware State Parks and recreational organizations, Governor Jack Markell signed legislation today that will change the structure and management of the Delaware Land and Water Conservation Trust Fund (DTF) and is expected to generate additional funding for outdoor recreation throughout the state. Senate Bill 75 will allow the management of the DTF as an endowment, producing higher yields from the fund’s investments which will continue to be used to fund grants to improve county and municipal parks, trails, playgrounds and other active recreation facilities, and to purchase additional land for outdoor recreation.

“Just as each of us seeks to maximize our income on investments, this legislation enables the state to do the same,” said Governor Jack Markell. “Changing the investment of the DTF from cash to true endowment management is expected to yield greater returns to fund outdoor recreation projects statewide for generations to come.”

The Cash Management Board and Treasurer’s office will remain the custodians and managers of the Fund. The Board’s expertise will provide valuable oversight and direction to strengthen the management of the investment, resulting in increased recreational opportunities statewide.  Since its inception in 1986, DTF has awarded grants to more than 300 projects such as Soroptomist Park in Seaford, Schutte Park in Dover and the James F. Hall National Recreation Trail in Newark.  Grants to county and municipal governments have leveraged over $64.5 million in local and other investments in outdoor recreation.

The endowment investment income is allocated through a formula that provides two-thirds of available funds to DTF grants, and the final third to stewardship projects for DNREC’s Divisions of Fish and Wildlife and Parks and Recreation, Delaware Department of Agriculture for forestry projects, and the Division of Historic and Cultural Affairs.

“Our municipal, county and state parks, trails, state forests and historical and cultural sites are incredible assets to our citizens and visitors and are an important part of our tourism economy, “ said DNREC Secretary David Small. “We need to assure that we are investing in this infrastructure and this legislation will help provide that funding. We appreciate the support from our Parks’ Friends groups which got behind this bill and does so many valuable services and projects for our Parks and our visitors.”

The legislation will increase the effectiveness of the DTF by enabling the state to lower match requirements for municipal and county projects from 50 percent to 25 percent. The bill also establishes an infrastructure account which will provide $1 million annually for improvements in state parks, and fish and wildlife areas statewide.

“Lewes has been the recipient of several Delaware Land and Water Conservation Trust Fund grants over the past 20 years,” said Lewes Mayor Theodore Becker. “These funds have leveraged local, private and foundation resources enabling Lewes to expand recreational opportunities at Smith Park at Blockhouse Pond, Canalfront Park, and a yet-to-be-built trailhead adjacent to the future library.  Once a forlorn and inactive boatyard, Canalfront Park is now a gathering place and a gem along the Lewes & Rehoboth Canal.  DTF grant awards totaling $1.57 million have improved the quality of life for Lewes residents and created great places for visitors.”

Governor Markell was joined at the bill signing by Sen. David McBride – the legislation’s primary sponsor.

“We’ve worked hard to get this legislation through for some time,” said McBride. “Higher returns on the endowment will generate more funding for outdoor recreation projects throughout the state; projects for which there is great need. I want to thank the legislature and Governor Markell for their support of this legislation – a bill we’ve looked forward to for several years.”

“This bill is a big win for everyone involved – the state, our counties and municipalities, especially smaller towns,” said House sponsor, Rep. Debra Heffernan. “We all know that increasing funding to enable more outdoor recreation projects is good for the health of all Delawareans – especially the health of our children. These projects can also bring tourism dollars and many other benefits to our state, without costing Delaware any additional funds.”

Ray Bivens, Director of DNREC’s Division of Parks and Recreation said, “This bill takes a great program and makes it better by giving it tools to fight inflation and be sustainable for generations to come.”