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Area projects to receive trust fund grants

MARQUETTE — Three area projects will receive development grants after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday signed HB 4469, which appropriates $37.8 million in Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grants to support 76 recreation projects and land purchases throughout Michigan.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board recommended the grants in December.

“The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund supports quality outdoor recreation, giving Michiganders the ability to safely enjoy the outdoors and boosting local economies,” Whitmer said in a statement. “This funding is crucial to helping communities utilize their natural resources and make Michigan’s public spaces more accessible and attractive to residents and visitors. I am proud to sign this piece of bipartisan legislation into law and support Michigan’s recreational resources and economy.”

Awarded $300,000 was the city of Marquette for an inclusive playground at Mattson Lower Harbor Park. The project will replace the outdated Kids Cove Playground at the park with a new inclusive playground for children of all abilities.

The 13-acre park, located on Lake Superior, serves as a gathering place for visitors, residents and the surrounding community. According to the governor’s office, this project will be a collaboration between the city of Marquette, Marquette Playgrounds for All and the Marquette Rotary Club, which will establish a maintenance fund.

The design will follow the principles of Universal Access design so that it is inclusive of all users, is flexible and intuitive, and minimizes transfer efforts. Popular playground elements, such as track rides and merry-go-rounds, will be accessible in ways that invite all users. The site will be separated into areas for younger and older children and include a poured-in-place unitary safety surfacing throughout to assist persons with mobility challenges.

Jackson Mine Park in the city of Negaunee will receive $125,700 for a playground in the park, located within a 900-acre tract west of Negaunee that features multiple recreational opportunities. These include the Iron Ore Heritage Trail, single-track mountain bike trails, snowmobile and ORV trails, and historic elements that help convey the region’s mining history.

The community playground will be located at the main entrance to the park adjacent to downtown Negaunee. The barrier-free playground will feature a variety of play equipment, access walkways and seating.

Marquette County and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources will receive $300,000 for Little Presque Isle Trail development and renovation of trailways at the Little Presque Isle recreation area, a popular hiking, swimming, picnicking, fishing, mountain biking, hunting and birdwatching area due to its proximity to the city of Marquette.

The governor’s office noted that due to a growing local community and marketing of the Iron Belle Trail, which this area serves, the recreation area is increasing in popularity, causing wear and tear and the need for extensive renovation. This project includes boardwalk construction, trail re-routing, trail drainage, trailhead parking lot improvements and footbridge renovations.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund is a restricted fund that was established in 1976 to provide funding for public acquisition of lands for resource conservation and outdoor recreation, as well as for public outdoor recreation development projects. It is funded through interest earned on funds derived from the development of publicly owned minerals.

Over the past 45 years, the trust fund has granted more than $1.2 billion to state and local units of government to develop and improve recreation opportunities in Michigan.

The trust fund board recommends funding to both state and local agencies for development projects and land acquisitions that will increase the quality and quantity of public outdoor recreation opportunities. This round of grant funding includes continued support of trail systems, specifically those with broad regional and statewide impact and connectivity; acquisitions of high-quality, unique natural resources including geologic features, wildlife habitat, and Great Lakes and river access; and an extensive range of development projects that expand opportunities across Michigan for camping, fishing, biking, hiking and snowmobiling.

For this grant cycle, the trust fund board recommended nearly $27.3 million for acquisition grants and $10.5 million for development grants. In all, 26 acquisition grants were awarded to local units of government for a total of $20.8 million, while four acquisition grants went to the DNR for projects totaling nearly $6.5 million.

The board also recommended $9.3 million in 42 development grants to local units of government, while four DNR projects garnered $1.2 million.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund board considered 136 applications seeking more than $60 million in funding. In a competitive process, all applications were carefully evaluated based on scoring criteria approved by the board.

DNR Director Dan Eichinger said trust fund support is especially meaningful now.

“Appreciation for Michigan’s outdoor spaces and recreation opportunities has always been strong, but this past year was an important reminder of how valuable these resources are to our residents,” said Eichinger, who also serves as a member of the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund board, in a statement. “People increasingly used and relied on these spaces to hike, bike, camp, hunt, fish and explore, or to share the outdoors with their kids, and many of these opportunities were fully or partially funded by trust fund grants.”

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