A half dozen Sky Valley projects will receive a chunk of $116 million the state has dedicated to recreation and conservation efforts.

Among nearly three dozen Washington counties, only King and Klickitat were awarded more funds than Snohomish, which will take about $9 million, according to a Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office news release. Public facilities, wildlife habitat, forests, wilderness and working farms are slated to benefit. 

“These grants are important to strengthening Washington’s economy and retaining our way of life,” said Gov. Jay Inslee in the release. “They will build parks, trails and boating facilities, and conserve working farms and critical wildlife habitat — all the things that make Washington a great place to live, work and operate a business.”

The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board made the announcement once the Legislature passed its 2017-19 capital budget, according to the release. The dollars were able to progress once Democrats and Republicans agreed how to resolve disagreement over the 2016 Hirst decision; the Washington State Supreme Court case shifted responsibility for permitting wells on private property from the Washington Department of Ecology to the counties. The fallout drew much controversy.

“County officials said they lacked the resources to conduct such studies, and consequently stopped issuing new building permits,” according to the Washington Policy Center. “That left rural property owners unable to build homes or develop their land.”

The 276 separate grants are considered to support an industry that is critical to Washington’s economy; one that generates nearly $21.6 billion annually, according to the release. Outdoor recreation rivals even that of the technology and aerospace sectors. Nearly 200,000 jobs are tied to its success.

Local projects are set up to take nearly $500,000 this session.

The Washington Department of Natural Resources will receive nearly $91,000 to maintain the 10,000-acre Reiter Foothills State Forest, according to the grant list. The money is to pay for a seasonal crew that will maintain off-road vehicle trails and facilities outside Gold Bar. Trails are continually expanded on — there are already dozens.

The state agency is also in the middle of a review of the Reiter Foothills Forest Recreation Plan that was finalized in 2010, according to the list. Its scope encompasses 10,000 acres of DNR-managed land, which included the original 187-acre timber sale.

The DNR will also receive more than $146,000 to develop trails and build backcountry campsites in the Morning Star Conservation Area, which encompasses 36,000 acres northeast of Gold Bar and Sultan. Visitors take the Mountain Loop Highway and Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest 4032 Road to get there. An emphasis is being put on restoring sensitive habitat for the project, according to DNR.

Further east, the U.S. Forest Service is being given nearly $49,000 to build a trail to the top of Frog Mountain, which can be used by hikers and horse riders. The peak is located in the 106,777-acre Wild Sky Wilderness, less than a mile east of Skykomish. A former forest service road will serve as the first portion of the 3.4-mile trail. The route will weave in and out of the wilderness area.

The Washington Trails Association, Back Country Horsemen of Washington volunteers, Forest Service trail crews, youth corps and contractors will help carry out the work, according to the list. The federal agency will also use a separate grant to restore the North Fork Skykomish Trail complex that was damaged in 2015. Floods and storms dropped 200 logs on the pathway, and five stream crossings were washed out; it has been impassable since.

Some money will help pay for employees to maintain good relationships with communities. The Forest Service will use two other grants that impact both Snohomish and King counties. A nearly $117,500 award will pay for a crew in the Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest’s Skykomish Ranger District, which parallels the Cascade Range to the west. The group will oversee trailheads and campsites, in what is one of the most heavily visited forests in the country, according to the Forest Service.

“There are 25 trailheads and nearly 300 dispersed campsites that serve about 70,500 day hikers, backpackers, stock users, and campers,” according to the grant list. “Other users include climbers, kayakers, rafters, anglers, and hunters.”

Another $68,200 grant is scheduled to pay for three wilderness rangers and one intern for two years in the same area. They will provide education and enforcement.

The money was allocated through nine grant programs, according to the state news release. They were funded by taxes, user fees and state and federal dollars; many were matched by local groups.

“Investments in outdoor recreation pay many dividends,” said Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office director Kaleen Cottingham. “Not only do these grants bring money and jobs to the economy, but spending time outdoors improves the mental and physical health of both kids and adults, and that saves money down the line in costs for health care.”