Michigan Spark Grant functions open Monday; as much as $15 million accessible for out of doors public recreation tasks


Interested applicants are invited to register for the informational webinar on October 28th

It’s a milestone for Michigan’s outdoor recreation: The first round of funding for the $65 million Michigan Spark Grants program begins Monday, October 24.

The program aims to support local communities looking to create, renovate, or redevelop public outdoor recreation opportunities for residents and visitors – particularly those communities whose economic opportunities and health have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Up to $15 million is available in the first round of the program, which will be administered by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Michigan Spark Grants are intended for projects that provide safe, accessible public recreation facilities and spaces to improve people’s health, introduce new recreational experiences, build on existing park infrastructure, and make it easier for people to enjoy the great outdoors.

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

“We are excited and extremely privileged to launch a program that we know will help many deserving communities expand outdoor recreational resources and experiences for their residents,” said DNR Director Dan Eichinger. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, people turned to nature in record numbers for fresh air and space to stretch out. Having opportunities like this close to where you live is critical, and Michigan Spark Grants will make that possible.”

Eichinger outlined the program today during the Michigan Municipal League’s annual convention in Muskegon.

The league’s director of state and federal affairs, John LaMacchia II, said the occasion was fitting as more than 400 local leaders from across Michigan have gathered to learn about investment opportunities that will improve their communities.

“Robust and equitable access to parks and recreation opportunities is one of the key elements to improving the quality of life,” said LaMacchia. “The Michigan Spark Grants program will provide our members with access to critical funding that will help them invest in long-lasting assets that contribute to the social and economic fabric of a community.”

LaMacchia is a member of the advisory group that provided the DNR with information on the program’s intent, evaluation criteria, and application requirements—all to ensure that the program’s stated goals are met.

development of the program

Andrea LaFontaine, executive director of the Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance, is also a member of the Michigan Spark Grants advisory team.

“Unified by the belief that all Michiganians deserve quality outdoor recreational experiences close to home, the Michigan Spark Grants advisory team worked together to create an opportunity that maximized resources, provided support and removed barriers to entry,” said LaFontaine. “The Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance was honored to serve on this committee, and we hope Spark Grants will help stimulate greater investment in outdoor recreational facilities across the state.”

Advisory team members represented diverse perspectives, including private philanthropy, regional planning, parks and recreation, community foundations, local governments (rural and city), and federal and state grant programs.

In addition to LaFontaine and LaMacchia, these include:

  • Kyle Caldwell, Council of Michigan Foundations.
  • John Egelhaaf, Planning Commission for Region 4 Southwest, Michigan Association of Regions.
  • Dan Lord, Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
  • Amy Matisoff, Michigan Department of Transportation.
  • Clay Summers, Michigan Recreation and Parks Association.
  • JJ Tighe, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.

Program Details, Eligibility

Eligible applicants for Michigan Spark Grants must be legal entities incorporated to provide public recreation and may include:

  • Government or agency entities.
  • Federally Designated Tribes.
  • Regional or national organizations.
  • Consortia of local government units or public authorities.

Public Act 53 of 2022 allocated a total of $65 million to state and local coronavirus recovery funds. Individual grant amounts will range from a minimum of $100,000 to a maximum of $1 million and will be distributed in three rounds:

  • Round one: up to $15 million for the week of January 30, 2023.
  • Round two: up to $25 million in spring 2023.
  • Round three: up to $25 million in summer 2023.

First round grant applications must be submitted by December 19, 2022.

October 28 webinar

Applying for a scholarship can be overwhelming. To help potential applicants better understand the details of the program—including eligibility, documentation, deadlines, and more—you are invited to attend a free informational webinar on Friday, October 28 from 10:30am to 11:00am at: 3 p.m. is offered.

It’s a great opportunity to ask questions and learn more about making the Michigan Spark Grant application process manageable even when you have a busy schedule. Registration is required. For those unable to attend the webinar live, a recording will be shared online upon completion.

For more information, including the program manual, grading criteria, FAQs, sample site maps, and other resources, visit the Michigan Spark Grants website.