GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has approved its first round of Spark Grants, spreading more than $14 million across 21 communities.

Michigan Spark Grants are meant to allocate funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to cover park projects and help communities that were hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Every Michigander in every community deserves access to the great outdoors to connect with nature, exercise and spend time with friends and family,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a release. “Under the bipartisan Building Michigan Together Plan that I signed last year, we made the largest one-time investment ever in our state and local parks. Now, we’re delivering those resources to move dirt and make a real difference in people’s lives while supporting good-paying jobs along the way.”

Of the 21 projects, six are in Southwest Michigan. Two of those received the top allotment of $1 million — adding the second phase to Albion’s McIntosh Park and improvements for the Stone Lake Waterfront in Cassopolis.

State Rep. Jim Haadsma, D-Battle Creek, welcomed the boost in funding.

“McIntosh is a really special spot. Ground broke for the creation of the park just last year, and it was named after James McIntosh, who was Albion’s first Black councilman,” he said. “Parks like these are so important for our community — enjoying outdoor spaces are a terrific way to get the family together and to improve physical and mental health.” 

The city of Benton Harbor will receive $958,000 to help restore Hall Park. Berrien County will receive $850,000 to upgrade the playground at Silver Beach County Park.

In Van Buren County, Covert Township will receive $475,000 for its plans to upgrade the north boardwalk at Covert Park Beach & Campground.

The city of Muskegon will get $250,000 to replace its now defunct splash pad. The city started seeking proposals from designers last fall. The new splash pad will replace the existing one on West Western Avenue, next to the City Farmers Market.