Uniting communities in a time of great confusion and uncertainty is paramount in 2020. Through the City of Valparaiso’s Neighborhood Improvement Grant Program, Valpo Parks Department has been able to improve community parks alongside the neighbors who use them. Maggie Clifton, Director of Community Engagement at the City of Valparaiso, has been administering the Neighborhood Improvement Grant Program since its inception in 2018.
“The program was created as a way to unite city departments with the neighborhoods in the city,” Clifton said. “It’s also a great way to get people to interact with their neighbors, and work toward bettering their community. Since the program started, the team at Valpo Parks has stepped up and worked with neighborhood groups to develop improvement plans for community parks including Will Park, Jessee-Pifer, and Banta.”
The process to apply for the Neighborhood Improvement Grant Program is very simple. Applicants can request up to $15,000 in grant funds to go toward resident-driven ideas. The program is funded through the City’s Redevelopment Commission, and once the funding is approved, the projects are completed within a year. The types of projects that are approved for the grant vary and have included park enhancements, sidewalk improvements, and more. The Valpo Parks Department takes pride in the projects they have been able to complete as part of the City’s grant program, which provides flexibility for applicants on the types of projects that are done in the neighborhoods.
“Every project is different,” Clifton said. “So we try to be as flexible as we can when looking at applications. We’ve had anything from free libraries to intersection artwork and planting trees. Every neighborhood is different, so their needs are different.”
The process of completing the projects has been somewhat unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve had more applications this year than ever before,” Clifton said. “Even though we’re living in uncertain times, it’s nice to see people finding creative ways to interact and get to know their neighbors. The teamwork in the neighborhoods is fantastic. Every year we do this program, it grows.”
The diversity of Valparaiso’s neighborhoods makes every application unique. The organization of each neighborhood, whether it is a more traditional homeowners association or just a neighborhood group, can apply for a grant to make improvements to their neighborhood. Each application proposes a unique way to better each individual neighborhood.
“We’ve had quite a few different projects completed this year. We had playground equipment installed in Will Park and Kingsridge installed a free library. Regardless of what the project is, it helps to spread positivity during these times.”
If you or your neighborhood group is interested in applying for the Neighborhood Improvement Grant Program, go to https://www.ci.valparaiso.in.us/1636/Neighborhood-Improvement-Grant.