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Spark Grants FAQs
Who is eligible to apply?
Eligible applicants must be legally constituted to provide public recreation and can include:
- Units of government or recreation authorities.
- Federally designated tribes.
- Regional or statewide recreation organizations.
- Consortiums of local units of government or recreation authorities.
- Applicants who were not funded in round one and were previously determined eligible.
DNR divisions are not eligible for Spark funding.
Can non-governmental entities apply?
Three criteria must be met for a 501(c)(3) to be eligible to apply:
- The entities’ main organizational focus must be regional public recreation.
- The underlying land where the project is proposed must be public (federal, state or local government).
- There must be a binding agreement in place with the public land managing entity clearly articulating roles, short and long-term responsibilities, and allowing the applicant to implement a project on their behalf.
- Downtown development authorities (DDA) and conservation districts are not primarily formed to provide regional recreation and do not meet the eligibility criteria. Public school districts may only apply if they are the sole provider of outdoor recreation in their region.
Can an applicant be awarded a grant in multiple funding rounds?
No. To ensure the greatest range of funding is provided to communities across the state, a single entity can only be funded in one round.
Can an applicant use a Spark grant to fill the funding gap on another DNR grant?
Spark Grants cannot be used in combination with Land and Water Conservation Fund grants. While Spark Grants may not replace existing match commitments for Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund or Recreation Passport grants, they can complement existing Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund or Recreation Passport grant-funded projects through the proposal of new scope items. Applicants interested in this approach should be aware of federal funding requirements associated with Spark Grants that are different than that of Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund or Recreation Passport.
What types of projects are eligible?
Projects must support and enhance neighborhood features that promote improved health and safety outcomes or address increased repair or maintenance needs for public facilities that would result in significantly greater use in local communities that have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Projects may include:
- Development, renovation or redevelopment of public parks, trails and recreation facilities.
- Provision of recreation-focused equipment and programs in public parks, trails and recreation spaces.
Indoor recreation opportunities ARE eligible.
Land acquisitions ARE NOT eligible.
Studying/planning/designing/engineering-ONLY grants ARE NOT allowed. (An awarded grant will allow for up to 25% to be eligible for planning and design services, but it must be part of a construction-based project.)
How will projects be selected / what are the scoring criteria?
Projects will be competitively scored based on prioritization criteria that was established and weighted by the Spark Advisory Group. The recreational needs that will adequately address the negative impacts of COVID-19 will be left to the community/applicant to define. Applicants that were awarded grants in round one will not be eligible for funding in the final DNR Spark round.
What happens if the full grant amount is not used?
Any unused funds will be retained by the DNR.
Are there required status reports and project documentation?
Status and budget reporting will be required quarterly and annually. Milestone reporting will be determined as the application is finalized.
What is the relationship between the Michigan Spark Grants program and the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund?
This is a standalone program dependent on availability of federal funds.
What if a contractor is unable to perform the work by the end of calendar year 2026?
Advance notice of at least 120 days must be made to the DNR if the project is not going to be completed by Oct. 31, 2026.
What documentation is needed to complete the application?
- Site control form and deed or agreement by landowner.
- Resolution by the highest governing body to apply for the funds.
- Site plan of proposed improvements.
- Bid documents and plan specs (if developed at the time of application submittal).
- Permits (if developed at the time of application submittal).
- Additional materials may be required after the application is finalized.
Can local ARPA State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds be used as match?
No, local ARPA State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds can’t be used in conjunction with a Spark project.
Can a project not selected for funding in round one be considered for the next round?
Yes, projects not selected for funding in the first round are eligible to apply again when the next round opens. Instructions on how to resubmit will be sent via email from MiGrants.
How is an existing application modified and resubmitted?
If you submitted an application in the initial round of Spark that was not funded, you can either:
- Resubmit with no additional information;
- Resubmit with additional information; or
- Withdraw your application.
For more details and guidance, refer to the MiGrants system email from May 1, 2023, or check out the Scoring Guidance section on the Spark Grants webpage.
Are there general recommendations for how round one applicants can improve their score?
Yes, it is recommended that interested applicants closely review the April email from MiGrants noting scoring tiers and guidance on how to modify and resubmit an existing application. Within Migrants, limited narrative text and uploads (e.g., maps, plans, cost estimates) may be submitted on the Additional Information page. As an additional resource, a Sample Application with scoring information and categorical guidance is available on the Spark website to understand how points are awarded within different categories. The Sample Application was updated with general recommendations in italics.
Is match required?
Match is not required, and no points are given to applicants who propose match. If you do provide match, it must be documented in your resolution and attached in the application.
Do design services (e.g., engineering/architecture) need to be completed prior to applying?
Design services are not required prior to the application. Applicants may include up to 25% of the total project request amount for engineering in the Financial Details section of the application. If selected for funding, Michigan licensed professional services are required and eligible for reimbursement if included in the application.