City of Lapeer awarded state grant to upgrade linear pathway at Rowden Park

City of Lapeer awarded state grant to upgrade linear pathway at Rowden Park

LAPEER — The Lapeer Parks and Recreation Dept. on Thursday was notified that Lapeer was one of 21 communities in Michigan to share $14.2 million in Michigan Spark Grants for repairs to the Linear Park Pathway at Rowden Park on N. Lapeer Road (M-24). Lapeer was awarded $767,600.

Michigan Spark Grants, administered by the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR), 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 historical 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.

The grant opportunity was possible because of the Building Michigan Together Plan, signed in March 2022, which included a historic $450 million infusion of federal American Rescue Plan Act funding in Michigan and local parks.

According to City of Lapeer Parks and Recreation Director Rodney Church, construction will pulverize the existing nearly 1.2 miles (6,250 feet) of the asphalt surface and use it as a base to resurface the entire pathway with three additional inches of asphalt. The pathway varies in width from six to 12 feet. It is also planned to replace and repair existing culverts, fix one of the boardwalk approaches, re-paint crosswalk markings, and replace crossing signs.

“We are extremely grateful to be one of 21 communities out of more than 460 applications to receive funding during phase one of the Spark Grant Program. Trails and pathways are an integral part of our park system throughout the City of Lapeer,” said Church. “Not only are we planning for future extensions to the pathway system, but now we can begin rehabbing some of our original pathways in town.” Per the grants management staff of the DNR, Michigan Spark Grants help local communities to create, renovate or redevelop public outdoor opportunities for residents and visitors — especially those whose COVID-19 pandemic hardest hit economic opportunities and health.

“Historically, grant opportunities for trail rehab projects are rare. That is why the Spark Grant Program piqued our interest. With this funding, we will now be able to repair one of our oldest extensions of the Linear Park Pathway system in Rowden Park with zero taxpayer dollars,” said Church. The project is currently in the planning and design phase, with bidding to begin in January 2024 and construction to kick off in the spring/summer of 2024.

Also, in Lapeer County, the Polly Ann Trail received $287,300. Elsewhere in the region, $393,000 was awarded to renovate the Marlette Community Park, in Sanilac County, with an accessible walking trail and playground equipment and updated pavilions.

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. “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.”

Given the overwhelming interest in these first-round grants, the DNR will work with the advisory group to determine the next steps and application timeline and look at opportunities to work with Michigan’s broader philanthropic community on ways to remove additional barriers to grant funding. Approximately $50 million in additional Michigan Spark Grants is expected to be awarded later this year.


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