Michigan Spark Program aims to address recreational equity with $65 million in grants
Playgrounds, splash pads, basketball courts, and park trails are just some of the recreational spaces the state hopes to see updated or developed with its new spark grant program.
Dan Lord is with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. He said the program is meant to target communities that have been hit hardest by the pandemic and have fewer recreational opportunities.
“Even more important than physical well-being was the mental health aspect - the ability to go out in nature or open green space, clear your mind, meditate - and the benefits of what that can provide on an individual basis," Lord said. "It's more critical for the health of general citizens.”
The program is made possible from the 2022 Building Michigan Together Plan, which uses funding from the American Rescue Plan, to support infrastructure projects.
Lord said the DNR has eliminated barriers in the application process to encourage more communities to apply.
"Other programs will score applications based upon the type of recreation, like if it's accessing a natural river," Lord said. "And we know not every community has those assets in their backyard, so we're not pre-defining what recreational means in this program. We want the communities to tell us [what they need].”
The grants range from a $100,000 to $1 million. Applications are now open for the first round of $15 million in funding until Dec. 19.
The DNR is also hosting a webinar Oct. 28 for prospective applicants.