By LIAM JACKSON
Capital News Service
LANSING – Ice rinks, volleyball courts and parks are receiving upgrades all over Michigan.
The state recently awarded nearly $2 million in recreation improvements financed by a portion of the $12 per license plate that Michigan motorists pay to access state parks.
Fourteen of 35 applicants were approved. The payments range from $83,600 to make a park in Delta County more accessible for people with disabilities to $150,000 awards for an ice arena in L’Anse and another for volleyball courts in Alpena.
As winter approaches, cold-weather recreation becomes more popular. Meadowbrook Ice Arena in L’Anse, a hub for ice skaters in Baraga County in the Upper Peninsula, will use its $150,000 grant to repair the boards and glass around the rink.
“This arena helps everyone in our community,” said Robert LaFave, the village manager of L’Anse, “everyone from little kids to elderly skaters and everyone in between.”
LaFave was unaware that the arena had received the grant money until he was called for comment.
“I haven’t gotten the official word yet, but that’s fantastic news,” LaFave said. “This made my day. My year even.”
Previously, L’Anse bought used boards and glass from other rinks to use at Meadowbrook. The new boards specifically for its arena will provide a safer experience for skaters for decades to come, LaFave said.
“We are a very small community in the Upper Peninsula, but this is going to help so many of our community members,” LaFave said.
From the ice to the sand, Mich-e-ke-wis Park on the banks of Lake Huron in Alpena also received $150,000 to renovate its beach volleyball courts.
The volleyball courts get a lot of use from a volleyball club in Alpena County, but it needs to be moved to remain usable, said Steve Shultz, the city engineer.
“We have some existing volleyball courts pretty close to the water’s edge, and they support a huge volleyball club in our area,” Shultz said. “The courts have been inundated with water because of the high waters lately. We need to relocate them, and the grant will help us do that.”
Upon learning of the award, Shultz was happy to know of the success of one of the first opportunities the city had for a grant to improve the courts.
“We knew it would be a lot of money and this was one of our first swings towards it,” he said. “So I am ecstatic.”
Recreation Passport grants are funded by Recreation Passports Michigan vehicle owners buy to have access to state parks, trails and other recreational facilities.
Not every grant applicant received funding from the Recreation Passport Grant on their first attempt.
Sunset Hills Park in Potterville was awarded $118,600 to make upgrades. It was the third time the grant request was made, said Tiffani Falin, its parks and recreation director.
“We are really pleased,” Falin said. “Last year we just missed the draw line. A lot of people say ‘third time’s the charm,’ so it looks like we are going to be having lots of fun soon.”
The moneyor Sunset Hills Park will be used to make the park more safe and accessible. Sidewalks and parking spaces will be added for safety reasons, and new park equipment will be added that is accessible for people with disabilities.
Sunset Hills missed out last year because the awards are decided by a point system.
Grant coordinators visit the properties that applied for grants, said Christie Bayus, the program manager for the Recreation Passport Grants.
“Each grant coordinator individually scores the applications in their regions,” Bayus said.
Points can be scored by making the area more accessible to people with disabilities, making safety upgrades and replacing outdated equipment.
“Then, we come together as a group and go through every application and how they scored them,” Bayus said.
After the points are awarded, the applications are ranked in order of most points and the Department of Natural Resources awards the applications with the most points until all the funds are used.
The grant agreements will be sent to the recipients so the money can be collected before the next construction season, Bayus said.