It was a joyous day in 2017 when the city of Bonners Ferry found out it would be a recipient of a $250,000 grant to help improve the health of youth in and around the community. According to the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health, one in three Idaho children are categorized as overweight or obese. This can lead to many health problems down the road like increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Every few years the organization awards a Community Transformation Grant that helps communities create projects and opportunities that better the health of young people, get them access to healthy foods and increased opportunities for physical activity.
From the initial $250,000, city administrators and a steering committee made up of Boundary County Parks and Recreation, the school district, library, hospital, University of Idaho and extension office, and local citizens have initiated 13 projects directed toward the goals of a healthier youth population. One of the most recent and highly anticipated projects is a splash pad for kids of all ages to enjoy during the warm summer months.
“Council did authorize the use of High Five Grant dollars toward the capital investment of the splash pad,” said City Administrator Lisa Ailport. “We believe the cost will be $55,777 and the High Five Grant would cover all of that.”
The roughly 500-square-foot splash pad will be built adjacent to the city pool, which is also upgraded with use of the High Five Grant. There will be several water jets coming from the ground up as well as taller features that will dump water from above. The splash pad is especially beneficial for young children who haven’t started swimming lessons as it gets them accustomed to being around water and not panicking when they are splashed in the face. It will be located to the south of the pool next to the covered viewing area so parents and kids can have a break in the shade as well. Construction should begin this year with the pad being fully operational by summer of 2020.
Despite the High Five Grant covering all the costs of the construction, Ailport and the committee have worked hard to not only utilize every dollar in the grant but to leverage projects into additional funding from community members, companies and additional grants.
“We did apply for an Innovia grant that would cover some of the costs with that as well, which is about $10,000,” she said.
If the grant goes through, the money will be put toward the splash pad project and $10,000 of the High Five Grant will go back into the original fund—something that’s been common practice since the very first projects.
“If we get the Innovia grant we will have leveraged about $202,000,” said Ailport.
Taking a $250,000 grant and turning it into more than $450,000 worth of projects shows a real dedication from those willing to help out once a project is announced.
At Bonners Ferry High School, the gym was in desperate need of new cardio equipment. The High Five Grant was able to provide more than $23,000 in funding for this equipment and others, including the local Rotary, chipped in an additional $2,000 to finish off the project.
The city pool in which the concrete was poured in the 1930s was also in need of a serious upgrade. The grant allotted $60,000 for improvements but the project ended up leveraging $150,000 to help create a beautiful new space. If a project is already partially funded it’s much more likely to receive full funding from other sources.
Some of the additional projects you will notice around town thanks to the High Five Grant are the cross-country trails behind the high school, new bike racks around town and the little free gardens. The BOCO Backpack program received significant funding from the grant. This program serves 160 students each week by providing them with nutritious foods when their families might not otherwise be able to afford them. A new year-round skating rink is also another place where kids can go for a fun place to exercise and interact.
Time is winding down on utilizing the remainder of the grant money. “If we don’t use it, we lose it,” said Ailmont. There is currently about $25,000 remaining in pool ($35,000 if Innovia grant goes through). Several projects are under consideration with the goal of maximizing and leveraging all of the remaining dollars.
For those who have worked closely on the project the last three years, they are hoping that this is just the start of creating a healthier and more active community in Bonners Ferry. Ailport hopes that more projects geared toward both mental and physical health will spring from what the High Five Grant might have already started. Regardless, the community is now enjoying the benefits from a grant that nearly doubled in value thanks to the hard work and generosity of so many.