Michigan’s outdoor public spaces are poised to benefit from a substantial infusion of federal funding to create, renovate, or redevelop outdoor recreational opportunities that improve health and safety outcomes for residents and visitors. The $65 million will be directed to communities that experienced disproportionate negative economic and health impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic and have historically experienced barriers to accessing these types of grants. Administered by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Michigan Spark Grants will support projects that provide safe, accessible public recreation facilities and spaces to improve people’s health, introduce new recreation experiences, build on existing park infrastructure and make it easier for people to enjoy the outdoors.
The primary purpose of this funding opportunity is to direct money to the communities with a high proportion of households that are struggling financially, a high number of residents with physical and mental disabilities, and a lack of public recreation opportunities. Analysis is underway to identify those targeted areas using mapping data. An advisory group of key collaborators has worked with the DNR to refine the program’s intent, scoring criteria, and application requirements. Once the DNR incorporates the advisory group’s feedback and finalizes the materials, the Spark grant website will be updated to give local communities and potential applicants as much time as possible to prepare their grant materials. It will take six to eight weeks to develop the final online application materials, which the DNR will host on its MiGrant online system. During that time, direct outreach and communication plans will be put in place to bring more awareness to targeted areas about funding availability. The grant application will launch in October and stay open for six weeks, with round-one grants awarded by the end of the calendar year. There will be two more rounds of Spark applications and grant awards in 2023.
- The Michigan Spark Grant Program is dedicated to helping improve and redevelop existing public outdoor recreation in communities that have historically experienced barriers to accessing these types of grants.
- Funding priority will be given to communities with a high proportion of households that are struggling financially, a high number of residents with physical and mental disabilities, and a lack of public recreation opportunities.
- This grant money will be used for developing neighborhood features that promote improved health and safety outcomes, such as parks, trails, green spaces, recreational facilities, and other projects that will revitalize public spaces.
- Applications will be open in October. Communities should check the Michigan Spark Grants webpage for updated information on scoring criteria and begin assembling application materials in advance.
- It is a grant requirement that this funding is directed equitably the DNR wants to create funding opportunities for the communities that have been most negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Equitable allocation of this money means using this funding to create more balanced access to parks, green spaces, and other public outdoor spaces for all Michiganders.
- The DNR aligned project partners and community organizations to maximize resources and bring the health, safety, and economic benefits of public outdoor spaces to more areas in Michigan.
John LaMacchia is the League’s director of state & federal affairs. He can be reached at [email protected] or 517-908-0303.