The Nature Education Facilities Program was created under the Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2006 (Proposition 84). This program provides funds for grants for nature education and research facilities and equipment to non-profit organizations and public institutions, including natural history museums, aquariums, research facilities and botanical gardens. Eligible institutions include those that combine the study of natural science with preservation, demonstration and education programs that serve diverse populations, institutions that provide collections and programs related to the relationship of Native American cultures to the environment, and institutions for marine wildlife conservation research. Grants may be used for buildings, structures and exhibit galleries that present the collections to inspire and educate the public and for marine wildlife conservation research equipment and facilities. The program is administered by California State Parks, Office of Grants and Local Services, utilizing the Department’s extensive experience and 40-year history of administering and managing grant programs. The development of program guidelines included a public involvement process whereby the Department solicited written comments and held public hearings at convenient locations throughout the state as part of the process for developing the procedural guide. Technical assistance workshops were also held throughout the state. Guidelines are posted on the California State Parks website. Selected projects are administered using a grant administration system that ensures frequent reporting and communication with grant recipients, routine monitoring and auditing of project progress, and timely project completion.
Projects selected for funding under the Nature Education Facilities Program are required to spend grant funds according to the approved project scope and budget. Grantees certify under penalty of perjury that the information in their payment requests and accompanying documents is true. The Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) withholds no less than twenty percent of each payment request to be released upon project completion. DPR also requires semi-annual progress reports for all projects, and conducts annual agency reviews with each grantee. Grantees that are 501(c) (3) nonprofit organizations must maintain a fidelity bond to receive grant funds.
All projects funded via the Nature Education Facilities Program receive a close-out site inspection conducted by the Department at the time the project is complete and prior to releasing final payment of grant funds. The purpose of the close-out site inspection is to ensure all project components were completed according to program guidelines and the terms of the grant agreement, including project scope and budget. To request final payment, grantees submit documents listing costs incurred using the grant funds and also identify all additional funding sources used to complete the project. Grantees must comply with all current laws and regulations which apply to the project. Grantees must record a notice on the title of the project property, stating that the property use has restrictions due to the grant agreement with the Department.