OSLAD Grants: Securing Funding and Transforming Community Spaces

The Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) program, administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), provides essential funding for enhancing community spaces across Illinois. By offering financial assistance for the acquisition and development of public outdoor recreation areas, OSLAD grants empower local governments to create and revitalize spaces that foster community interaction, recreation, and environmental responsibility.

Gewalt Hamilton Associates: Facilitating Successful Grant Applications

At Gewalt Hamilton Associates (GHA), we specialize in navigating the complexities of OSLAD grant applications. Our team provides customized guidance to align each project’s specific needs with the requirements set forth by the IDNR. With a 75% success rate in securing funding for grant applications we’ve helped prepare, our expertise streamlines the application process while enhancing the likelihood of funding approval.

Understanding OSLAD Grants and Key Components for Successful Applications

Eligibility and Requirements

To qualify, applicants must have statutory authority to acquire and develop land for public park and recreation purposes. The application process utilizes a scoring system, prioritizing projects that demonstrate substantial community benefits and public involvement. Understanding and strategically addressing the OSLAD scoring criteria is essential for a strong application. Key strategies include:

  • Community Involvement: Engaging the public through meetings or resolutions is crucial, as it demonstrates the project’s alignment with community needs and significantly enhances the chances of receiving funding.
  • Project Readiness: The state evaluates whether applicants have a well-prepared plan, including secured matching funds and clear implementation timelines.
  • Environmental and Conservation Considerations: Projects that integrate environmental sustainability measures, such as native plantings and conservation area developments, receive additional points.
  • Innovative Design and Accessibility: By prioritizing inclusive and accessible design features, projects ensure all members of the community can enjoy and utilize the recreational facilities. This commitment to inclusivity strengthens grant proposals, demonstrating a well-rounded approach that caters to the needs of all.
  • Strategic Project Planning: Emphasizing long-term benefits and potential phased developments is crucial for securing funding. A comprehensive plan that outlines the project’s sustainability, future growth, and maintenance ensures that the project will continue to serve the community effectively for years to come.

By incorporating these components into the applications, applicants can enhance their project’s alignment with the OSLAD program’s priorities, increasing the likelihood of funding approval and successful implementation.

Financial Aspects

OSLAD grants offer a 50/50 matching fund, providing up to 50% of the necessary funding for eligible projects. This includes both land acquisition and development costs. In fiscal year 2024, communities identified as “distressed” may qualify for up to 100% funding.

  • Upfront Funding and Reimbursements: An advance payment option is available for development projects, where 50% of the grant amount is provided shortly after the grant agreement is executed, with the remainder reimbursed as project milestones are met.
  • Budgeting and Financial Planning: GHA assists in crafting viable budgets that adhere to grant limitations, ensuring projects are financially sound and meet all necessary guidelines for successful funding.

GHA’s expertise in navigating these components ensures that applications not only meet the requirements of the OSLAD program but also align strategically with community needs and conservation priorities, maximizing the potential for funding approval and project success.


Maple Park – Palatine, IL. GHA worked with the Palatine Park District to secure OSLAD funding.

GHA’s Strategic Approach to OSLAD Grants

Expertise in Action

At GHA, our approach to OSLAD grants is characterized by a deep understanding of the program’s details and a tailored strategy that aligns each application with specific project needs. Our team helps prepare every aspect of the application, from detailed project descriptions to comprehensive budget forecasts, ensuring that each submission not only meets but exceeds the IDNR’s expectations.

Building Effective Relationships

One of GHA’s key strategies involves cultivating strong relationships with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) staff. This partnership promotes smoother communications and a clearer understanding of the evolving grant requirements and evaluation criteria. This ongoing relationship helps clarify expectations on both sides and positions GHA as a trusted partner in the application process.

Demonstrated Success Rate

With a 75% success rate, GHA consistently delivers results when it comes to grant applications. This impressive track record speaks volumes about our ability to craft grant applications that align perfectly with the program’s goals.  It’s a clear testament to our commitment to supporting community development through successful grant funding. Our portfolio includes a diverse range of projects, from small community parks to large recreational complexes, all benefiting from our strategic approach to leveraging OSLAD grants.

Butterfly Park Renderings – Streamwood, IL
Butterfly Park

The Streamwood Park District’s Butterfly Park Improvements project exemplifies GHA’s expertise in securing OSLAD grants. This project was successfully funded through the OSLAD grant, enhancing the park’s amenities and creating an engaging and enjoyable space for the community. Key features of the Butterfly Park project include:

    • New playground equipment with a rubberized surface
    • A new walking path
    • A shelter
    • A pollinator and rain garden
    • ADA accessible benches
Hartmann Park

GHA’s proficiency in managing OSLAD grants is further illustrated by the Hartmann Park Improvements project for the Vernon Hills Park District. The successful grant application led to significant improvements in the park, enhancing its accessibility, usability, and enjoyment for the community. Key features of the Hartmann Park project include:

    • New playground equipment with a rubberized surface
    • Re-aligned walking path
    • Half-court basketball court
    • Pollinator and community garden
    • Reconstructed parking lot

Overcoming Challenges

Addressing Common Challenges

Applying for OSLAD grants involves navigating a variety of challenges, from budget requirements to complex regulatory demands. GHA is adept at identifying and overcoming these hurdles to enhance the likelihood of grant success:

  • Updating Comprehensive Plans: Projects often require current and comprehensive plans that reflect community needs and priorities. GHA assists clients in updating these plans, ensuring they are within the five-year validity period favored by grant reviewers. We help integrate relevant environmental, recreational, and community development goals that align with OSLAD criteria.
  • Budgeting Within Grant Constraints: Crafting a budget that fits within OSLAD’s financial parameters while covering all necessary project costs requires careful planning. GHA helps develop feasible, detailed budgets that comply with grant guidelines and maximize the available funding.
The Role of Communication

Effective communication forms the backbone of successful grant applications. GHA emphasizes the importance of maintaining open and continuous dialogue throughout the grant application process:

  • Between GHA and Clients: We ensure that our clients are well-informed at every stage of the application process. Regular updates, meetings, and feedback sessions help keep projects on track and clients engaged and confident in their applications.
  • With the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR): GHA’s established relationships with IDNR staff facilitate smooth interactions and clear understanding of grant requirements. This ongoing communication helps anticipate potential issues and address them proactively, significantly smoothing the application process.


Hartmann Park Renderings – Vernon Hills, IL
Strategic Solutions to Common Obstacles

GHA not only identifies potential pitfalls but also provides strategic solutions tailored to each project’s specific needs. Whether it’s navigating the complexities of community engagement, adhering to environmental regulations, or meeting the detailed financial stipulations of the OSLAD program, GHA’s expertise ensures that all aspects of the grant application are handled with

Leveraging Industry Best Practices

Our approach is grounded in industry best practices and a deep understanding of the regulatory landscape. This expertise allows us to guide clients through the OSLAD application process effectively, from initial concept development through to final submission. We provide the tools and knowledge necessary to transform potential obstacles into opportunities for showcasing project strengths and community pride.

GHA’s Expertise

GHA has demonstrated significant expertise and success in navigating the complexities of the OSLAD grant program. Our deep understanding of the program’s requirements, combined with strategic planning and personalized client approaches, ensures that each application is thoughtfully prepared and positioned for success. By aligning each project with the specific goals and criteria of the OSLAD program, GHA enhances the potential for funding approval and effective project implementation.

Your Partner in Community Development

As communities continue to grow and seek new opportunities for growth, securing funding through programs like OSLAD becomes increasingly important. GHA supports these initiatives by providing expert guidance and strategic solutions throughout the grant application process. Our commitment to helping clients transform visionary projects into realities ensures that communities across Illinois receive the lasting benefits they deserve.

With GHA’s expertise and strategic approach, your next project can achieve the recognition and funding it deserves. Contact us today to begin your journey toward successful grant funding.