WINDSOR, ONT. -- The first release of community benefits funding tied to the Gordie Howe International Bridge project will benefit four community initiatives on either side of the border.

On Thursday, The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA) — which is spearheading the bridge project — announced more than $475,000 for two initiatives in Windsor and two in the U.S.

The funding is part of a $20-million Community Benefits Plan, announced in June 2019, meant to improve aesthetics and landscaping as well as economic benefits and community partnerships in areas directly impacted by the construction of the $5.7-billion bridge.

The WBDA has been consulting with community members and officials over the past few years.

“We got a lot of feedback on enhancements to the community; aesthetic enhancements, protection for endangered species, connectivity,” said Heather Grondin, the vice-president of communications and stakeholder relations for the WDBA.

On the Canadian side, the City of Windsor will receive $250,000 to begin an environmental assessment for the Ojibway Park-Black Oak Heritage Park Wildlife Eco-Passage. This amount is part of a larger $1.5 million in seed funding to be released to the city should the project move forward.

“Some of the initiatives that we’ll see over the next few years include construction of observation platforms, so people can watch the construction, improvements to a couple parks in Sandwich, enhancements to Sandwich Street and tree planting programs,” said Grondin.

A further $20,000 will go to Life After Fifty — a not-for-profit that provides services for adults over the age of 50. The group will use the money to fund the West End Art Project, a youth-based initiative aimed to reflect the history and culture of the community.

“The bridge is going to be something that changes the landscape of our community,” said Veronica Samek, project coordinator of Life After Fifty. “So, what does that look like? What does that feel like for the youth that are going to visually see this happening as it goes along?”

Samek hopes the art initiative will allow youth to showcase their west-end Windsor identity in various ways.

In the U.S., a total of $83,333 will be used to launch Bride of Prosperity — a new business development program that will provide support to southwest Detroit small businesses and start-ups.

The Fort-Rouge Gateway Partnership received $125,000 for the creation of a sculpture in the new Fort Street Bridge Park.