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‘Big Program’ could be big news

Within the next two weeks I will be submitting a grant application to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources on behalf of the City of Ironton for what is known as the “Big Program”, otherwise known as the Boating Infrastructure Grant Program which is funded by Congress and administered through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

This grant is what is referred to as the Tier II which is typically awarded to larger projects that qualify at the state level and then are competitively judged at the national level.

Top scoring projects are awarded and eligible for funding status by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Awarded projects are fully funded as long as funds are available.

Who is eligible to apply? Big Program funds are available to public and private agencies and marinas and other facilities that provide transient tie-up opportunities for non-trailer (26 feet or over in length) recreational boats.

The Big Program was created to provide funding for construction of facilities that will enhance boating for recreational boats when such boats are in transient status.

How are projects scored? In order to score the maximum points possible, the project proposal should include information describing how the project meets certain criteria.

A couple of important scoring areas includes :

Projects that provide access to recreation, historic, cultural, natural or scenic of local, regional and/or national significance.

Projects that provide significant economic impact to a community. For example, if the project were built, how many boaters would be attracted to the area? How much would they spend in the community? How does that contribute to the economic value of the community?

Project that includes public/private partnerships. To be considered a partner, the partner must supply something of reasonable and tangible value to the project.

Obviously, this grant is very lengthy and detail oriented. I just wanted to share some general information regarding the grant. This grant opportunity is something that I have been working on for several years.

After conducting extensive research on this grant, I knew that the city of Ironton was not prepared to apply for this grant just a few years ago. It has taken several years to be in a position in which Ironton would be competitive, nationwide, in order to be awarded this type of grant.

Now, I am going to back up and go into some detail as to what I have previously referenced. Let’s start with who is eligible. The city of Ironton is a municipality located along the beautiful Ohio River and can provide this opportunity for transient boaters as well as local boaters.

The important scoring areas include, recreation, historic, cultural, natural or scenic of local, regional and/or national significance. We have all of these located in our city or just a short drive from Ironton into Lawrence County. Just to mention a few; we have the National Forest, Lawrence County Museum, Ironton Splash Park, Skate Park, the annual events such as the Gus Macker, Rally on the River and the Memorial Day Parade.

These are a few examples of the possible economic impact that this grant can have on our community. Not to mention the fact that our current riverfront area is totally underutilized and can be used an economic development attraction.

As I stated earlier, we were not in a position to apply for this grant several years ago. I believe now is the time to take this opportunity and make our riverfront the best it can be. Just look up and down the river or go to Lake Erie and see for yourself.

To view the entire Ohio Department of Natural Resources Big Program Grant please visit the ODNR website.

Other states and communities have taken advantage of this grant in efforts to improve the riverfront which has proven to be beneficial to each community. Why should the city of Ironton not take this opportunity?

I believe this is our opportunity to apply for this grant and we actually have the credibility to be awarded the grant.

Approximately three years ago, I met with the previous director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources along with other employees of ODNR regarding this grant and was told that the ODNR would assist the city of Ironton with the required match for the grant. Let’s hold them to that verbal commitment.

We have the partnerships with the IPA who has purchased the property north of the riverfront area for future economic development. We have obtained a Clean Ohio grant to remediate the contamination of that property at a cost of one and a half million dollars.

We have been awarded previous ODNR Nature Works grants to stabilize the riverfront bank and most recently we were awarded another ODNR grant of $100,000 to create bike and walking trails along this area.

We have the partnership of the Friends of Ironton who holds annual events that bring in thousands of people to our city as well as the Ironton In Bloom organization that have supplied and maintained the beautiful flowers that you see in our downtown district.

I have recently met with Congressman Bill Johnson who has sent a letter of support for this project that I will include in the application.

In closing, allow me to stress the fact that economic development does not occur overnight. It takes years of preparation, due diligence, and persistence.

Even though our country is suffering from an economic decline since 2008, I believe in the City of Ironton and Lawrence County. The City of Ironton, the Lawrence County Commissioners, LEDC, CAO and the village mayors are working hard in the best interest for the city of Ironton and Lawrence County.

This process takes time. I believe this is our time.


Rich Blankenship is the mayor of Ironton.