LWCF Conversion of Use
Conversion of Use
Section 6(f) (3) of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 requires all property acquired, developed or improved with assistance from the LWCF grant program shall be retained and used for public outdoor recreation in perpetuity (forever). A conversion of use occurs when a site identified by the 6F boundary map is wholly or partially converted to a use other than public outdoor recreation without the approval of the National Park Service (NPS).
Examples of Conversion of Use:
- Property interests are conveyed to private parties.
- Non-outdoor recreation uses, public or private, are located within the project area.
- Examples may include, but are not limited to:
- Fire stations
- City offices
- Community centers
- Private office space
- Enclosed park facilities not approved by the NPS
- Commercial use
- Roads not approved in the original grant
- Closure of public access to LWCF area
- Property acquired by LWCF is never developed for the purposes outlined in the acquisition grant agreement
- Cell towers
Situations that may not trigger a Conversion of Use:
- Underground utility easements that do not impact or preclude the surface recreation use of the LWCF grant area.
- Proposals to construct public facilities such as recreation centers and indoor swimming pools where it can be shown there is a gain or increased benefit to the public outdoor recreation estate. These proposals must be reviewed by the NPS as a “public facility request.” Consult with the LWCF grant coordinator during the early stages of planning for indoor facilities so proper procedures are followed and a conversion of use does not occur.
- Proposals for temporary, non-conforming uses of the 6F grant area lasting no longer than six months. Temporary uses must be approved by the LWCF grant coordinator.
- Proposals for changing the overall outdoor recreation use of the LWCF grant area from the originally approved recreation use of the area. These changes must be reviewed and approved by the LWCF grant coordinator and NPS before any changes are made.
Summary of the Conversion of Use process:
A conversion of use of any 6F project area should be avoided if at all possible. Conversions of use must be approved by the NPS and they may refuse to grant approval for a conversion. For this reason, the locality that has jurisdiction over the 6F site is strongly encouraged to contact the LWCF grant coordinator very early in the planning process. Warning – The National Park Service’s conversion review period has increased to a minimum of 150 days. It is advised for a sponsor proposing a conversion to add at least 6 to 9 months from the time the state submits the proposal to the NPS to the time of completion.
Conversion of use process includes, but is not limited to the following:
- Early consultation with LWCF grant coordinator to outline proposal.
- Formal request in writing for permission to convert LWCF assisted property.
- All conversion proposals must include a Proposal Description and Environmental Screening Form (PD-ESF), environmental assessment, appraisal, and boundary maps as part of the conversion process. All expenses associated with the development of these documents are the sole responsibility of the project sponsor/locality with jurisdiction over the LWCF area.
- All practical alternatives to the conversion must be evaluated and rejected on a sound basis.
- The fair market value of the property to be converted has been established and the property proposed for substitution is of at least equal fair market value as established by an approved appraisal (see appraisal guidance) excluding the value of structures or facilities that will not directly enhance its outdoor recreation utility.
- The property proposed for replacement must be of reasonably equivalent usefulness and location as that being converted. Depending on the situation, and at the discretion of the NPS, replacement property need not provide identical recreation experiences or be located at the same site, provided it is in a reasonably equivalent location. Generally, the replacement property should be administered by the same political jurisdiction as the converted property.
- The replacement property must constitute or be part of a viable recreation area. Viability and recreational usefulness are dependent upon the proposed outdoor recreation development plan and timetable for the development of the replacement parks. If full development of the replacement site(s) will be delayed beyond three years from the date of conversion approval, the conversion proposal shall explain why this is necessary.
- The replacement land may not have been previously dedicated or managed by for recreation purposes while in public ownership.
- If the 6f area is to be only partially converted, then the remainder of the existing facility must be a viable recreation facility.
- The environmental analysis must be conducted in a neutral and factual manner and result in statements reflecting this same neutrality so the interested and affected public can focus on and understand the details of the proposed federal action of converting parkland including the replacement of new parkland according to 36 CFR 59. The environmental analysis documents should not include statements that promote or justify the action precipitating the conversion, such as proclaiming that the subject parkland is the best location for a new fire station.
- For more detailed information on the conversion process, download the conversion of use procedure.
When it is discovered that a Section 6(f)(3) area has been converted without NPS approval, a conversion of use process must be immediately initiated so a conversion proposal can be submitted and reviewed by NPS for retroactive action. An unauthorized conversion causes the locality to be in violation of the Land and Water Conservation Act and places the locality and the state’s eligibility for funding at risk.
Resolution of the conversion requires both the LWCF grant coordinator and NPS to review the conversion proposal as set forth above including the provision of suitable replacement property. Failure to take steps to rectify the conversion shall be considered cause for the state/NPS to apply penalty options. Penalty options pursuant to 43 CFR Part 12.83, include withholding of payment of federal funds on active grants, withholding approval of further projects, and other action deemed appropriate under the circumstances.