published on April 6, 2017 - 3:36 AM
Written by David Castellon

The Walt Disney Co. is offering a $20,000 grant to the City of Fresno to fund one of three park-related projects in the city, but it’s the public that will decide the winner through online voting.

Those projects can be viewed at, as well as projects in 13 other U.S. cities — including San Francisco, Houston, Miami, New York, Orlando and Austin — along with Florida’s Brevard County, the only non-city of the list.

Each has been selected by Disney to receive a $20,000 parks grant under the same criteria, with the public choosing which of three park-related projects to fund, said Roxanne Sutton.

She’s a spokeswoman for the National Recreation and Park Association, a nonprofit representing about 60,000 people working in parks and recreation departments across the country, providing services that include professional training, obtaining grants and online resources.

The NRPA is working with Disney and its divisions, ESPN and ABC Television, to coordinate the Meet Me at the Park program. Sutton said this is the third year for the program, which had been called “Parks Build Community” prior to a rebranding this year.

All 14 cities and Brevard County — where the John F. Kennedy Space Center is located — have participated in the program over the two prior years.

Last year, online voters selected Fresno’s Life and Environmental Science program at the Highway City Science Center to receive the $20,000 grant to help fund a program in which participants learned about water safety, survival skills and overnight camping.

Each of the 15 communities’ parks and recreation departments have submitted four or five programs they wish to fund with the money, but the money can’t be used to plant trees or fix park bathrooms in parks.

Instead, the nominations have to follow three criteria: Making communities healthy, connecting children to sports and connecting children to nature, Sutton said.

Here are the Fresno nominees and how to vote for them:

– Highway City Community Science Center

The Mobile Science Vehicle, equipped with traveling science laboratory and materials for more than 350 diverse, informal science projects, will be used to help dispel the sense of fear children may have about science by providing hands-on opportunities in technology and science at the community center and at various park sites throughout the city.

Vote for this program by texting “HIGHWAY” to 35350.

– Holmes Park

A Healthy Lifestyle Fitness Program will be implemented at Holmes Park to teach youth about healthy living and promote physical activity.

Vote for this program by texting  “ HOLMES” to 35350.

– Ted C. Wills Community Center

An “educational” garden will be planted in the northeast corner of the community center to train youths how to tend and maintain gardens, which would serve as a foundation for healthy cooking classes that would be taught by trained staff.

Vote for this program by texting “TEDCWILLS” 35350.

Voting can also be done on the website, and participants can vote for recreation programs in any of the city sites or all of them once a day. They can vote again each following day until April 30, Sutton said.

In addition, participants can “write in” nominations for U.S. cities or counties not listed on the website, and the one that gets the most votes will receive $20,000 to spend on a parks or park-related program, she explained.

As an incentive to get people to vote and vote often, each vote will be an entry to win an iPad outfitted for outdoor use, Sutton said.

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