Sault to receive $716,600 grant to improve Alford Park

Lansing, MI – Nearly three years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, almost two dozen of the hardest-hit Michigan communities are benefiting from $14,178,900 in Michigan Spark Grants funding – a big boost toward creating, renovating or redeveloping public recreation opportunities for residents and visitors.

“Every Michigander in every community deserves access to the great outdoors to connect with nature, exercise, and spend time with friends and family,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “These Spark Grants will fund a variety of public recreation projects across our state, including … $716,600 to revitalize Alford Park in Sault Ste. Marie, in Chippewa County, with the addition of accessible pedestrian paths and amenities such as bike racks, picnic tables and benches.”

“Under the bipartisan Building Michigan Together Plan that I signed last year, we made the largest one-time investment ever in our state and local parks,” Whitmer said. “Now, we’re delivering those resources to move dirt and make a real difference in people’s lives while supporting good-paying jobs along the way.”

Michigan Spark Grants, administered by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, offer the DNR a chance to reach people in communities whose economic opportunities and public health were most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This reimagined approach activates historic support for 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.

Two key ways these grants differ from the department’s existing recreation grant programs are that applicants can seek up to $1 million for a single project and there is no 25% match requirement.

In total, the DNR considered 462 applications requesting more than $280 million – figures that far eclipsed what the department is used to. In comparison, the DNR’s top three recreation grant programs – the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Recreation Passport and the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund – usually field a collective ask of around 150 applications seeking between $50 million and $60 million annually.

“The response was more than we could have imagined,” said acting DNR Director Shannon Lott. “Clearly, the Michigan Spark Grants opportunity and outreach have tapped into a critical need in many areas of the state, and we are proud to deliver support that will help create and restore the quality public recreation resources that we know can improve public health, anchor communities and strengthen a sense of place.”

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