Fall colors may have faded from most of Michigan’s state parks, but the Department of Natural Resources is helping many community parks at the local level see some green – thanks to a boost in revenue from the successful launch of the DNR’s Recreation Passport program.

Earlier this month, the DNR announced nearly $600,000 worth of Recreation Passport Local Community Grants awarded to 24 cities and townships seeking to use those dollars to provide better public outdoor recreation opportunities for their communities.

“In the process of developing the Recreation Passport, it became evident to us that local parks were facing the same challenges as state parks in terms of the need for renovation and upkeep,” said DNR Director Rodney Stokes. “Through the Recreation Passport grant program, we’re able to help make some good things happen at the local level.”

The DNR reports that the Recreation Passport – which, in October 2010, replaced motor vehicle permits for entry into Michigan’s state parks, recreation areas and state-administered boat launches – saw an uptick in participation that exceeded initial expectations and netted close to $6 million in new revenue for these facilities.

Ron Olson, chief of the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division, said that the Recreation Passport program was structured so that the grant program would receive 10 percent of the net Recreation Passport revenues – helping to provide needed funding to improve public outdoor recreation opportunities, facilities and infrastructure at the city, county and township levels.

That’s good news, not only for the DNR’s 99 state parks and recreation areas, but also for the two dozen community parks and recreation facilities statewide that were selected to share in that Recreation Passport funding.

This year’s grants ranged from a minimum of $7,500 to a maximum of $30,000. The DNR expects that, in future years, the maximum grant amount will increase as revenue from sales of the Recreation Passport also increases. Winners ranged from large metropolitan cities like Detroit to its tiny, 4.4-square-mile neighbor, the city of Riverview in Wayne County.

According to Todd Dickman, recreation director for the city of Riverview, the city’s $22,500 award will go toward the construction of a fishing pier in the city’s Young Patriots Park, which is situated on a former Cold War-era Nike missile launch site.

Dickman said the fishing pier will add a new dimension to Reflection Pond, a man-made pond within the park where children often spend their summers fishing along the banks.

“The new fishing pier will provide Riverview residents a better place to fish and will be a nice added attraction to the scenic park that often is used for both senior class pictures and wedding photography,” Dickman said. He expects the grant will allow work on the 10-by-20-foot structure to begin in the spring.

For Alicia Minter, director of recreation for the city of Detroit, the $30,000 Recreation Passport grant means long-needed repairs and improvements to the 3-acre, inner-city Lorwyn E. Peterson Playfield located on the northwest side of Detroit.

Minter said the Peterson Playfield is “a huge athletic and community hub, used by all ages for everything from tennis and Little League to walking.”

According to Minter, the grant will allow for repairs to the black glass windows at the comfort station, improvements to the spray park cooling area, remarking the distance markers on the walking paths and repairs to the handicap-accessible picnic tables.

“The grant will definitely keep the park up to standards and allow us to maximize our dollars by building on what we already have,” Minter said.

Recreation Passport Local Community Grants were awarded to communities across the state, including Arcadia Township, Belvidere Township, Coldsprings Township, Detroit, East Lansing, Eaton Rapids, Escanaba Township, Flushing Township, Grand Rapids(2), Ironwood, Marshall, Mount Pleasant, Norwood Township, Owosso, Portage Township(3)*, Riverview, Sherman Township, Springport Village, Sturgis, Three Rivers and Unadilla Township. (*Portage Township in Mackinac County received two grants; Portage Township in Houghton County received one grant.)

The winning entries were chosen from a field of 50 grant applicants seeking some $1.2 million in funding for a broad range of public recreation projects including playground equipment, picnic tables and shelters, renovation of bathroom facilities, tennis and basketball courts, skate parks and improved access for those with disabilities.

“Installing a basketball court, adding outdoor grills, renovating a restroom … these may seem like small projects, but the impact they can have on a community gathering spot is huge,” said Steve DeBrabander, manager of the DNR’s Grants Management section. “We’re excited about this first round of Recreation Passport grants, because we know the good they’ll do for years to come.”

Application materials for future Recreation Passport Grants are available at www.michigan.gov/dnr-grants, by calling Grants Management at (517) 373-9125 or by writing to: Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Grants Management, P.O. Box 30425, Lansing, MI 48909-7925.

The Recreation Passport program, which is coordinated in conjunction with the Secretary of State’s office, gives Michigan residents the option of paying an additional $10 per car or $5 per motorcycle when renewing a vehicle registration each year. The Passport, symbolized by the letter “P” printed on the renewal sticker, entitles that vehicle to access all state-run park facilities for the year the sticker is valid.

Learn more about Michigan’s Recreation Passport at www.michigan.gov/recreationpassport or by calling (517) 241-7275.

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