By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer
LOVELAND - A proposal to build a skate park got a much-needed boost this week.
City Council agreed to apply for a state grant to construct the $60,000 skate park - the first time city officials have made a commitment to help fund it.
A NatureWorks grant, through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, requires a 25 percent match from the city.
For two years, a group of volunteers, including a dozen young skateboarders, has tried to raise money to build the park after the city said it would contribute land in Lever Park.
Last week, the group's leaders said that their fund-raising opportunities had dried up, and asked the city to chip in.
Council voted Tuesday to make the skate park more of a priority in the 2004 budget.
"Right now, we're committed to at least matching the NatureWorks grant if we get one," City Manager Fred Enderle said. "If we don't get the grant, I don't know what will happen."
Skate park organizers applauded the city's move.
"More cities than not get that NatureWorks grant," said Tonya O'Brien, who led the push for the park and raised thousands of dollars in private donations for labor and materials.
"If it doesn't get built, at least there's a reason. But I think it has a chance."
The city must apply for the grant by Feb. 1. Dameyon Shipley, a grants manager for natural resources, said roughly $112,000 will be available for Hamilton County projects.
Awards will be announced late next year, and Shipley said he expects heavy competition for the money, which is granted for community park and recreation projects.
The fact that Loveland has never received a NatureWorks grant could work in the city's favor, he said, referring to a selection process that is based on points.
"Those things definitely help them," Shipley said. "But, while it's a very good project, and there are some points to be had, it's still a very competitive process."
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