STATEMENT BY JOHN REYNOLDS, REGIONAL DIRECTOR, PACIFIC WEST REGION, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS AND PUBLIC LANDS OF THE COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES CONCERNING H.R. 4125, TO PROVIDE A GRANT UNDER THE URBAN PARK AND RECREATION RECOVERY PROGRAM TO ASSIST IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF A MILLENNIUM CULTURAL COOPERATIVE PARK IN YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO.

May 16, 2000


Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present the Department of the Interiorís views on H.R. 4125, a bill to provide a grant under the urban park and recreation recovery program to assist in the development of a Millennium Cultural Cooperative Park in Youngstown, Ohio.

The Department opposes the enactment of H.R. 4125. In many instances, this proposal is not consistent with the purposes and intent of the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Act of 1978 (UPARR).

If enacted, H.R. 4125 authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to use funds appropriated for, or otherwise made available to carry out, the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Act of 1978 to make a grant to the nonprofit Youngstown Playhouse of Youngstown, Ohio, to assist in the development of a Millenium Cultural Cooperative Park in Youngstown, Ohio. The amount of the grant is set at $2,000,000 in each fiscal year from 2001 through 2005. The Secretary, acting through the National Park Service, is also authorized to provide technical assistance in the development of this unique type of urban park.

The UPARR program was established in November 1978 by Public Law 95-625. One of the primary purposes for UPARR, stated in the legislation, is to complement existing federal programs by encouraging and stimulating local governments to revitalize their existing park and recreation systems and to make long-term commitments to continuing maintenance of these systems. Public Law 95-625 also authorizes financial assistance specifically for the rehabilitation of critically needed recreation areas and facilities as well as the development of improved recreation programs that are tied closely to the goals, priorities, and implementation strategies expressed in local park and recreation action programs. Only cities and urban counties meeting established eligibility criteria may apply for assistance.

Published regulations define a process for soliciting applications for UPARR assistance, for reviewing and ranking those applications, and for making the final funding selections. These regulations ensure fair competition among more than 400 eligible applicants and also that each request addresses the purposes and intent of Public Law 95-625. H.R. 4125 raises questions of equity and fairness by earmarking general UPARR funds appropriated by the Congress for a particular project, not only for one year but for a total of five. It would provide guaranteed funding to a proposal which has not had a decision made regarding its eligibility and which bypasses the competitive selection process denying the opportunity for funding to projects across the country which may be equally or more highly qualified.

The Youngstown Playhouse does not qualify for direct assistance under the UPARR program. It is not a unit of local government which has been designated an eligible applicant or which could qualify as a discretionary applicant under Public Law 95-625 or the Park Serviceís published regulations. Although non-profit organizations may receive pass-through funding, funds must be channeled through a unit of local government, which has been determined eligible and which can assure the perpetual use requirement for any property improved or developed with assistance under the UPARR program.

In fiscal year 2000 a total of $2 million was appropriated for the entire UPARR program. The Administrationís fiscal year 2001 budget includes a $20 million request for UPARR. A $2 million set aside for one project is not only equal to the entire appropriation for fiscal year 2000, but would exceed the statutory limitation of 15 percent (or $300,000) of the annual appropriation for applicants within any one state. With funding levels unknown for fiscal year 2001, as well as for the remaining four years authorized by the bill, it would not be prudent to earmark an amount which might exceed the legislative limits, or at a minimum, result in a disproportionate amount of the total appropriation for one project.

H.R. 4125 proposes that the grant money received by Youngstown be used to develop a Millennium Cooperative Cultural Park. Our understanding is that the project will renovate and expand the Youngstown Playhouseís existing facility and other properties consisting of a Park Center for the Arts, an Arts Park and Education Complex, a Cultural Center for the Arts, an Experimental Showcase, and a Performance Park. While the goals of this project are commendable, without the opportunity to review and evaluate the entire proposal through the UPARR application process it is impossible to determine which portions, if any, of the proposal would meet UPARRís goal of revitalizing existing recreation systems and returning them to full use.

The National Park Service is willing to provide technical and developmental assistance, as our funding and resources allow. However, for UPARR applicants to be eligible for assistance under Public Law 95-625, they must demonstrate through their grant application the capacity for adequate planning and funding for recreation areas and facilities. In H.R. 4125, the assistance requested under Section 1(b) would transfer part of this responsibility to the federal government, which would be contrary to established UPARR guidelines.

The city of Youngstown has received UPARR grants in the past for the rehabilitation of recreational facilities. We would be happy to work with members of the city on proposals that can be submitted under the established UPARR criteria for grants to help in the rehabilitation and revitalization of additional existing recreational facilities.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I would be happy to answer any questions that you or other committee members may have.