"The projects that we submit, they can either be land acquisition or park improvement, and it's very competitive, so it's a chance to get funding for a project that's important to our long-term planning, but there's not enough money on our own," said Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Director John Scholtz.
According to Scholtz, they either award the full ask in the grant or nothing at all. He estimates that, in any given year, only 25-30 percent of projects are awarded grants.
The entire process is "very transparent," Scholtz said, so if you come up short one year, you know what to fix to resubmit the grant proposal the following year.
"This year, they're funding a lot of the acquisition projects just based on what funding they had available and the politics of the day, so we were happy to be successful," he said.
The outdoor recreation grants will be reviewed by the state Legislature during the appropriations process next year. Once approved, the governor will need to put his pen to paper to pass the funding onto the local projects.
The following projects in the area were funded for 2017:
— DeGraaf Nature Center will be receiving $165,000 to improve public and school group access. Planned improvements include a new site entrance, sign, parking spaces and a shade shelter with a fireplace to encourage year-round use.
— Windsnest Park in Port Sheldon Township will get $300,000 for upgrades to facilities that are more than 50 years old. Restrooms, parking, pavilions and playgrounds will get improvements, while an overlook, kayak storage racks, a water trail map and a charging station will be updated amenities.
— The trail system will be expanded at Keppel Forest in Park Township thanks to a $148,400 grant, while upgrades will be made to the entrance area, parking area and shelter area. New interpretive exhibits will be added along with the creation of a meadow with indigenous prairie plants.