American Water Charitable Foundation Awards $150,000 to Town of Bel Air for Nature-Based Play Area

CAMDEN, N.J.,(Jan. 23, 2019) – The American Water Charitable Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization created by American Water, the nation’s largest publicly traded water and wastewater utility company, today announced it is awarding $150,000 in grant funding to support a local nature-based play area in Bel Air, Maryland. 

“This water-centric park improvement project will give residents of all ages the opportunity to enjoy, learn about and appreciate the environment and especially our critical natural resource, water, in a fun and engaging way,” said Laura Martin, president of the American Water Charitable Foundation. “We are proud to further American Water’s ongoing commitment to being good stewards of the environment and bettering the communities where our employees and our customers live, work and play through this grant program.”

The Town of Bel Air will utilize grant funding to create Chesapeake Sensory Plaza - a unique 5,000-square-foot play space designed to represent the Chesapeake Bay watershed area.  Manual hand pumps and water switches will start the flow of water into a 70-foot-long channel traversing the length of the plaza.  The channel will feature a variety of mill wheels, lock gates, flaps, forks and collecting areas to form a highly interactive play experience.  Educational signage and illustrations will showcase the watershed’s delicate ecosystem as well as highlight the importance of water conservation and environmental stewardship practices.   
This project was chosen based on several criteria including water components, play value, education value, proximity to American Water’s service areas, project parameters, use of natural play materials, and opportunities for American Water employee volunteer involvement. 

“We are so excited to bring this unique educational play space to Bel Air,” says Director of Planning, Kevin Small.  “As a Sustainable Community, we value the opportunity to teach local families the importance of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed.”

This grant is part of the Foundation’s Building Better Communities signature grant program, administered by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). The program is designed to enhance the quality of life in the communities the company serves. The program is focused on parks, as they are critical to preserving natural resources that have real economic benefits for communities. Specifically, this initiative concentrates on building or enhancing nature-based playgrounds and play spaces for children, and will connect and educate people on environmental stewardship practices related to water and other natural resources.

“NRPA is proud to partner with the American Water Charitable Foundation to increase opportunities for children and families to experience nature and the outdoors,” said Lori Robertson, NRPA director of conservation. “Ensuring people everywhere have the opportunity to engage in physical activity and explore nature is essential to building healthier, stronger communities and creating the next generation of environmental stewards.” 
During the last five years, the Foundation has awarded 13 NRPA grants to American Water communities in California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and looks forward to adding this project, along with others, to its Building Better Communities initiative.  

For more information about the Building Better Communities program, visit the Signature Program.