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Matching Grant Program (MGP)

Grants to Sonoma County, California Nonprofits
and Agencies to Acquire and Improve Open Spaces

Agency Type:


Funding Source:

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Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District

Conf. Date:


Deadline Date:

04/30/18 5:00 PM Receipt


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Grants to Sonoma County, California nonprofit organizations and local government agencies to ensure open spaces are available to county residents. Funding may be requested for land acquisition and improvements. Projects must be located near or within incorporated areas or other urbanized areas of the County.

Since its creation by Sonoma County voters in 1990, Ag + Open Space has provided funds to Cities, the County, other public agencies and nonprofit organizations for open space projects through its competitive MGP. Under the voter-approved 2006 Expenditure Plan, the MGP provides funding for community and urban open space projects within or near incorporated cities and other communities in Sonoma County. The MGP requires applicants to provide matching funds at least equivalent to Ag + Open Space’s grant.

Ag + Open Space administers the MGP on a biennial basis and has provided over $33 million in funding towards projects in all of the county’s nine cities and in numerous unincorporated communities, allowing our partners to leverage funding to develop diverse and innovative projects throughout Sonoma County.

The MGP is intended to create vibrant lands and inviting spaces within our cities and communities and at the urban edge, providing an opportunity for residents and visitors alike to experience open space within and near Sonoma County’s population centers. Matching Grant projects have the potential to transform communities, providing places to find solitude, for public gatherings, to recreate, and to experience and learn about natural resources and agriculture and their importance in the landscape.

In order to provide permanent protection of land through the MGP, Ag + Open Space requires that the grant recipient convey a conservation easement to Ag + Open Space. Properties intended to be used for public access may also require that a recreation covenant be conveyed to Ag + Open Space.

Eligible Project Categories:

Proposed projects must qualify under one or more of the categories of project types listed below. Projects eligible for the MGP must include acquisition and/or improvement of real property for open space, agricultural, natural resources, or outdoor recreational use, or a combination thereof. Projects must be located within or near incorporated areas or other urbanized areas of Sonoma County. Paragraph 5 of the Ag + Open Space Expenditure Plan provides a number of examples of projects that are eligible for funding through the MGP.

To ensure preservation of open space is consistent with our voter-approved 2006 Expenditure Plan, projects involving site development may be subject to limitations on impervious surfaces. Gravel trails, grassy fields, and similar improvements that do not have impervious surfaces are not included in this calculation.

a. Acquisition Projects

Funding through the MGP can be utilized to purchase fee title to land for community open space projects.

Eligible Acquisition Projects include, but are not limited to, acquisition of land for:
i. Restoration, preservation and/or enhancement of significant natural areas, including oak woodlands, marshes, wetlands, uplands, riparian corridors, and other critical habitat areas.
ii. Public access to open space and outdoor recreational and educational amenities such as urban parks, greenways, athletic fields, and trails.
iii. Agricultural lands within or near communities to provide opportunities for access to locally grown and produced food (does not include acquisition of land solely for community gardens).

b. Improvement Projects - Restoration, Public Access and/or Recreation Development Projects

Funding through the MGP can also be utilized for projects that construct or implement elements that improve the open space qualities of a property.

Eligible Improvement Projects include, but are not limited to:
i. Implementation of restoration, preservation and/or enhancement of significant natural areas including oak woodlands, marshes, wetlands, uplands, riparian corridors, and other critical habitat areas.
ii. Development of connections between communities, public parks, or public lands within and adjacent to urban areas. Preference may be given to projects that are part of a regional trail system.
iii. Implementation of site improvements necessary for, and which facilitate, providing public access to new open spaces and parks with limited or no public access for outdoor recreational use including trailheads and staging areas.
iv. Construction of new site improvements necessary for outdoor recreational, educational, or agricultural facilities, including park/farm amenities, trailheads, staging areas, picnic areas, and athletic fields.

Planning & Environmental Context:

The project must be based on sound planning, as demonstrated by consistency with the applicable jurisdiction’s (e.g., City, County) general plan, any relevant specific plan, area plan, creek plan, habitat plan, and other applicable planning documents. The project must comply with the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and all other local, State and federal environmental and permitting requirements. Any necessary approvals or permits must be able to be obtained within MGP timelines.

NOTE: If a project involves development of, or change in use of a property, or if significant changes are proposed to existing improvements, applicants will be responsible for coordination with all applicable jurisdictions and agencies to determine which land use entitlements or permits may be necessary to implement the project prior to disbursement of grant funding.

Community Support and Project Need:

All applicants must demonstrate the community need as well as broad community support for the project. The application should provide evidence of support from the appropriate governing body, such as the entity’s Board of Directors or the City Council.

Community support can be demonstrated via public meetings related to the project, letters of support, or other methods as provided by the applicant. The applicant should also be able to articulate the need for the project, citing any references to the project in the jurisdiction’s general plan, park or creek plan, or similar documents.

The MGP application asks applicants to discuss any concerns or opposition that has been identified and to explain how they have or plan to address them.

Basic Requirements for All Projects:

The property must be free of significant title defects and obstacles to use, such as restrictive deeds and/or easements, restrictive water rights issues, restrictive cultural or historical resources, hazardous conditions and/or materials, public use conflicts, and in-holdings or property boundaries that limit or preclude management options.

There must be a plan (e.g., master plan, management plan, restoration plan) developed for the project. The plan can be conceptual or preliminary at the time of the application and the final plan will have to be reviewed and approved by Ag + Open Space staff prior to disbursement of funding.

For Acquisition Projects, the current property owner must be a willing seller. The applicant is responsible for landowner negotiations, including obtaining an appraisal that meets Ag + Open Space Appraisal Guidelines and Standards.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 141961

Estimated Total Program Funding:


Term of Contract:

Improvement Projects should be within two years of project construction at the time of application submittal.

Improvement projects must be long-term in nature. Specifically, applicants must anticipate a project to be beneficial for more than 20 years.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Eligible Applicants:
-Public agencies including Sonoma County’s nine incorporated Cities and the County
-Nonprofit 501(c)3 organizations

Ag + Open Space encourages applicants to partner with other eligible entities to leverage funding and implement multi-benefit projects.

Land Ownership:

Applicants or a co-applicant must have a legal interest in the property (ownership or easement) that ensures their right to implement the project. To demonstrate this the following is required:

a. Acquisition project applicants must submit documentation, such as a letter of intent or purchase agreement, demonstrating the willingness of the current landowner to negotiate the sale of the property to the applicant or co-applicant.

b. The entity that holds title, has a legal interest in the property, or who will hold title to the property at closing must be an eligible applicant, sign as a co-applicant on the application, must be willing to be a signatory of the matching grant agreement, and be willing to convey to Ag + Open Space a conservation easement over the property.


Ag + Open Space encourages partnerships between entities to apply for a grant and complete projects. To demonstrate a commitment to the project, all parties will be required to sign off on the application.

Further, Ag + Open Space requests that a written agreement between co-applicants (e.g. memorandum of understanding, land tenure agreement, lease) be in place at the time of application. If an agreement has not been executed by the time the application is submitted, a signed letter by the co-applicants, indicating their intent to enter into such an agreement is acceptable. If awarded funding, submittal of an executed agreement between all parties will be required prior to any disbursement of funds.

This agreement establishes that the parties have committed to implementing the project. At a minimum, both parties must sign an agreement including the following:

a. Roles and Responsibilities. The agreement must authorize the co-applicants to proceed with the implementation of the project, operate the project, and must identify which co-applicant is responsible for maintenance of the project property. The agreement may allow the co-applicants to delegate activities to other entities. If funded, all activities must be in accordance with the terms of Ag + Open Space’s matching grant agreement and future conservation easement.

b. Term of the Agreement. The agreement should be long-term in nature and at a minimum long enough to implement the project, provide public access (if applicable), and document match funding.

c. Renewal Clause. The renewal clause should include an option for the co-applicants to renew the agreement beyond the original term.

d. Termination. Any of the following are acceptable: 1) No termination clause; the agreement is irrevocable; 2) A termination clause that specifies that the agreement is revocable only for breach of the agreement or for cause; or 3) A termination clause that specifies that the agreement is revocable by mutual consent. A termination clause that allows the landowner to revoke the agreement without cause is not acceptable.

Co-applicants will be required to submit authorization from their respective governing bodies. If awarded, all co-applicants will be required to sign the matching grant agreement.

Project Authorization:

To be considered for the MGP, all applicants must have the support of their governing body as evidenced in a formal resolution or formal statement. Resolutions or statements must include the following:

a. Authorization by the governing body for submission of the application to the MGP.
b. An explanation or analysis to demonstrate that the project is consistent with the jurisdiction’s general plan. For applicants representing a project in an unincorporated area of the county, a description of consistency with the County’s General Plan is required.

c. Acknowledgement that the applicant has or will have avail- able the required match and sufficient funds to complete the project and to operate and maintain the project.

d. Acknowledgement that the applicant has reviewed, understands, and agrees to the provisions contained in the MGP Guidelines.

e. Delegation of an authority to conduct all negotiations and submit and sign all documents, including but not limited to, application, matching grant agreement, conservation easement, recreation covenant, irrevocable offer(s) of dedication, amendments, reimbursement requests and so on, which may be necessary for completion of the project.

f. Agreement to comply with all applicable federal, State and local laws, ordinances, rules, regulations and guidelines.

Requirements for Nonprofits:

Applicants or co-applicants that are nonprofitt organizations must submit the following to be considered for acceptance into the MGP:
-Evidence of qualification under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code
-California Form 590 Withholding Exemption Certificate
-California Form 204 Payee Data Record
-Articles of Incorporation

Ineligible Projects:

Projects that are not eligible for the MGP include, but are not limited to:
a. Projects that involve acquisition of property through the power of eminent domain.
b. Projects that solely rehabilitate existing facilities.
c. Projects that are intended to be used to fulfill mitigation
requirements for a public or private development project.
d. Acquisition of, or interest in, land that unlawfully restricts access to specific persons.
e. Projects on property that Ag + Open Space owns in fee.
f. Projects on property that Ag + Open Space has purchased in fee and transferred to another entity.
g. Projects where Ag + Open Space has contributed to the fee purchase through the acquisition of a conservation easement.

Projects that have previously received acquisition funding through the Matching Grants Program are eligible for additional MGP funding for future phases of the project.

Pre-proposal Conference:

To commence the application period and to support applicants throughout the process, Ag + Open Space staff will hold two similar public information workshops. The workshops will provide an overview of the MGP including requirements, eligibility, evaluation and approvals.

Participation is recommended for new applicants and applicants that did not attend a workshop for the previous cycle in 2016; however participation is not mandatory in order to apply.

Informational Public Workshop #1:
Wednesday, January 31, 2018 | 10AM – 12PM
Permit Sonoma Public Hearing Room
2550 Ventura Avenue, Santa Rosa

Informational Public Workshop #2:
Tuesday, March 13, 2018 | 10AM – 12PM
Sonoma Community Center
276 East Napa Street, Sonoma

Pre-Application Information:

The MGP requires applicants to provide a matching contribution at a ratio of one-to-one. The match may include both direct contribution and in-kind services and materials; however, no more than fifty percent (50%) of the match can be satis ed through operations and maintenance costs (O&M).

The 2018 Matching Grant Program will be accepting applications from January 31, 2018 through April 30, 2018. All applications for funding must be received by 5:00 PM on April 30, 2018.

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Jennifer Kuszmar

Ag + Open Space
747 Mendocino Ave, Suite 100
Santa Rosa 95401

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: California: Sonoma County