Christmas came early for 41 recipients Wednesday night as the Washington County Riverboat Foundation fulfilled its fall grant cycle and awarded $1,006,168 to area nonprofits for a variety of projects.
The big recipient was the Friends of Lake Darling, which received $135,000 to build a trail to the new silt dam bridge that was installed in the park over the summer. Friends member Fay Vittetoe walked to the front of the banquet room the presentations were being given at to receive the large display check for the money that would create a handicapped accessible trail from the existing handicapped fishing trail to the 140-foot pedestrian bridge.
“This is more than an $8.5 million asset to Washington County,” Vittetoe said of the Lake Darling State Park. “Before we started the renovation and restoration of Lake Darling, it was a $1 million asset. I am overwhelmed the Riverboat Foundation provided us with the askings of $135,000. This will pave three-fourths of a mile of park trail.”
She commented people interested in seeing a trail from Brighton to the 1,500 acre Lake Darling State Park need to continue discussion, as the new trail will set up the park to be able to accept such a trail.
Last year it was reported Richland native Jerry B. Robinson, currently of Englewood, Colorado, had granted up to $200,000 to pay for installation of the bridge, which was given in four installments. Vittetoe said that as a boy, Robinson rode with his father in the seat of his father’s fuel truck to take fuel to the bulldozers building the first dam in Lake Darling. In the past, Robinson donated a $100,000 matching grant to build the Four Seasons Lodge in the park, which was dedicated in 2008. He also donated a $50,000 matching grant for the Four Seasons cabins that were opened last fall.
In 2007, the Riverboat Foundation granted $337,000 to the Friends to help build the Four Seasons Lodge in the park.
The Washington County Hospital Foundation received a grant of $76,425 to help with a project to improve the safety of the outside spaces of the hospital by placing concrete landscaping and planting trees.
“These improvements reflect the Washington County Hospital Foundation’s vision to provide quality health care that puts people first, even before people see their physician,” Riverboat Foundation President David Mitchell said as he announced the grant. “The hospital provides a welcoming space for patients and their families.”
Washington County Conservation received a grant of $65,125 to update displays in the Conservation Education Center in Marr Park. Naturalist Pam Holz said the displays haven’t been updated since 2003 when the building was first opened. The designs for the new displays have already been planned with the assistance of a fabricator from Dubuque, she said.
“The goal is for it to be highly interactive, open ended and very locally oriented,” she said. “The ideas they came up with was absolutely fantastic. There will be a tree you can climb into. It will discuss habitats. There will be an ant hill you can crawl in. It will be exciting and kids will want to come again and again.”
At the end of the presentations, Mitchell told the audience that during the 10 years the foundation has existed, it has given a total of 1,349 grants for a total of $44,141,732.