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Michigan Spark Grants

About the program

It’s a milestone moment for outdoor recreation in Michigan: a $65 million grant program to help local communities that want to create, renovate or redevelop public outdoor opportunities for residents and visitors—especially those whose economic opportunities and health were hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Administered by the 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. This grant opportunity is possible because of the Building Michigan Together Plan, signed in March 2022, which included a historic infusion of federal funding in our state and local parks.

The grant application will launch in October and stay open for six weeks, with first-round grants awarded by the end of 2022. There will be two more rounds of applications and grant awards in 2023.

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Program goals

  • Leverage federal, state, local and private resources toward a sustainable public recreation development program.
  • Provide a clear, simple and equitable grants distribution process in support of public outdoor recreation.
  • Align project partners and community organizations so resources are maximized, and roles and responsibilities are clearly outlined and balanced.

Addressing community need

The Michigan Spark Grants program is aimed at 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 areas 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.

Eligible applicants

  • Applicants must be local units of government or public authorities legally established to provide public recreation.
  • Applicants may include a regional or statewide organization or consortium of local units of government or public authorities legally established to provide public recreation.
  • An eligible financial match is encouraged but not required.
  • A community planning process is encouraged but not required.

Eligible projects

  • Projects must support and enhance neighborhood features that promote improved health and safety outcomes or address the increased repair or maintenance needs in response to significantly greater use of public facilities in local communities that have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Projects may include the development, renovation or redevelopment of public recreation facilities, and the provision of recreation-focused equipment and programs at public recreation spaces.
  • Funds may be used for activities such as, but not limited to, project review, planning, architecture and engineering services, construction, oversight and compliance activities associated with state and federal requirements, as applicable.
  • Projects must be completed by Dec. 31, 2026, on public land with the primary purpose of providing outdoor recreation.

Application scoring criteria

Applications that address existing park infrastructure will be given priority. Consideration will be given to applications that complete critical trail projects or provide access to new opportunities that currently don’t exist within a local community. Scoring will be based on the following criteria, listed in order of priority:

  • Public benefit and anticipated outcomes
  • Financial and social considerations
  • Access to project site
  • Access to new opportunities for people of all abilities
  • Clarity of scope and ability to execute
  • Renovation and long-term maintenance

Advisory group

Several key collaborators worked with the DNR to provide input on the program’s intent, scoring criteria and application requirements to ensure the stated objectives of the grant program are met. The group also advised on a strategy for the disbursement of funds, though the DNR is ultimately responsible for how and where to leverage this funding. Members represented diverse perspectives including private philanthropy, regional planning, parks and recreation, community foundations, local governments (rural and urban), and federal and state grant programs. Advisory group members are:

  • Kyle Caldwell, Council of Michigan Foundations
  • John Egelhaaf, Region 4 Southwest Planning Commission, Michigan Association of Regions
  • Andrea LaFontaine, Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance
  • John LaMacchia II, Michigan Municipal League
  • Dan Lord, Michigan Department of Natural Resources
  • Amy Matisoff, Michigan Department of Transportation
  • Clay Summers, Michigan Recreation and Park Association
  • J. J. Tighe, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation

Available funding

A total of $65 million of coronavirus state and local fiscal recovery funds was made available through Public Act 53 of 2022. Individual grant amounts – ranging from a minimum of $100,000 to a maximum of $1 million – will be distributed in three rounds:

  • Round one: $15 million by the end of 2022.
  • Round two: $25 million in spring 2023.
  • Round three: $25 million in summer 2023.

Funding authority


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