WWRC-RCO Partnership

Who is RCO and What Does it Do?

The Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) is a small state agency that manages grant programs to create outdoor recreation opportunities, protect the best of the state's wildlife habitat and working farms, and help return salmon from near extinction.

The office provides staff and support to four boards, councils, and offices. Two of those boards, the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board and the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, set policy for the grant programs and award grants. They conduct all their business in public meetings and take pride in being open and transparent in how they administer public funds.

Since the agency began in 1964, it has awarded more than $2 billion in grants to nearly 8,600 projects across the state. Since 1990, RCO has awarded an average of 280 grants every year totaling $72 million.

Applications generally are accepted in even-numbered years, except for salmon recovery grants, which are accepted every year. All RCO grants are competitive. Applications are evaluated by staff and people knowledgeable in each program’s focus.

Check out the RCO website for all kinds of information. You can see what grants are available and learn how to apply for funding for your next project. You also can see what recreation trends are in the state and get information about projects in your neighborhood. You can find studies and reports, like the recent study on the economic benefit of outdoor recreation.

Working Together to Build Great Places to Play

WRPA and RCO work together to educate the public, lawmakers, and community leaders about the value of outdoor recreation – to our communities, to our health, and to our quality of life.

Outdoor recreation is a significant contributor to Washington’s economy, supporting nearly 200,000 jobs.

Each year, Washingtonians and visitors spend $21.6 billion on outdoor recreation, supporting many different businesses, such as gear and equipment (42 percent), gas and oil (13 percent), grocery stores (9 percent), food and beverage services (10 percent), and lodging (7 percent).

Washingtonians love to play outside, spending an average of 56 days a year in some form of outdoor recreation. The five most popular recreational activities are:

  1. Walking
  2. Running and jogging
  3. Wildlife viewing and photography
  4. Bicycle riding
  5. Playground use

When Washingtonians go outside, they go to local parks the most but spend the least amount of money to do so. They spend the most amount of money when they are recreating on water.

The recreation market is one of the largest markets in the state for moving income from urban to rural areas. Outdoor recreation not only creates jobs and builds businesses, it cuts health care costs, brings families closer together, helps kids learn in school, and protects the environment.

Read more about the value of recreation: Economic Analysis of Outdoor Recreation in Washington State.

Working to Save Places for Wildlife

WRPA and RCO work together to support state and federal funding that protects the rich, natural landscapes of Washington for both wildlife and humans to enjoy.

Part of what makes Washington special is the variety of its landscapes, from ocean beaches to mountain tops, from estuaries to arid lands, from scenic panoramas to neighborhood parks. RCO offers several grant programs aimed at conserving the best wild places left in Washington.

Working to Set Public Policy on
Outdoor Recreation Issues

One of RCO’s roles is helping Washington State plan for outdoor recreation. RCO develops several plans that direct how we invest in the outdoors, such as the state’s comprehensive outdoor recreation plan, statewide boating plan, and state trails plan. In creating these plans, RCO often calls upon WRPA members for their advice and expertise. RCO also co-sponsors the statewide trails conference.

RCO created the Public Lands Inventory, an online database that provides maps, charts, and other information about public land ownership in Washington.

Protecting Washington’s Farms

RCO and WRPA members work together to protect working farms. Many WRPA members have received grants from RCO that are aimed at protecting farmland so that the next generation of farmers will have land to grow food, raise cattle and other animals, and produce beautiful flowers, seeds, and products that Washingtonians use, sell, and enjoy.