By MARK S. KRZOS • • August 2, 2008A city of Bonita Springs’ plan to turn a piece of land near Interstate 75 into a small park will get a helping hand from the state.

Carpenter Lane River Park in Bonita Springs has been named as one of four Lee County parks that will get a slice of $24 million earmarked by the state for improvements.

“That property near the McDonald’s is going to be part of the river trail,” said Gary Price, Bonita’s city manager.

The river trail will be a walking trail along the Imperial River. The trail will work in conjunction with a canoe/kayak trail planned for the eastern reaches of the river, Price said.

“The city and the county both bought some land in that area,” Price said. “The walking trail is being planned between Bonita Grande Drive and Quinn Street.”

Part of the state’s budget for 2008-09 includes $24 million to expand and improve local parks statewide.

The money Bonita Springs receives from the state will be used for a new sheltered pavilion, a multi-use trail and landscaping.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program (FRDAP) will grant Lee County $542,000 to develop and enhance community parks, providing outdoor recreation opportunities and improving public access to Florida’s natural resources.

“Outdoor recreation areas and facilities are a vital part of Florida’s economy, drawing both Floridians and visitors to experience the state’s natural resources,” said Michael Sole DEP secretary. “With the support of Gov. Crist and the Florida Legislature, FRDAP funding allows Florida cities and counties to develop and enhance local parks while uniting their communities through recreational opportunities.”

Other Lee County projects funded in this year’s budget include:

• City of Fort Myers, Clemente Park – The money will be used for a new picnic pavilion, walking trail, restroom, landscaping and to renovate picnic pavilions.

• Lee County, Three Oaks Community Park – The money will be used for a new tennis court, fishing pier, picnic pavilion, parking and lighting.

• City of Cape Coral, Chantry Park – The money will be used for new picnic facilities, a boat ramp, walking trails and lighting.

“Reserving space and funds for recreation is essential to the healthy growth of Florida’s communities and citizens,” said Mike Bullock, the director of the DEP’s Florida Division of Recreation and Parks.

Administered by DEP, the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program (FRDAP) is a competitive grant program, providing funds to local communities for public outdoor recreation.

Over the past decade, Florida has invested more than $250 million to improve local park facilities through this grant program, funding more than 2,000 projects statewide.

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