Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Revisions to Natural Resources Trust Fund Rules

by Nancy Krupiarz, Executive Director, Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance

Today was the day the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund board met to discuss and act on new scoring criteria for 2009’s application cycle. As you may know the Natural Resources Trust fund board was concerned because there has been a decline in the number of applications submitted over the last few years, particularly from urban areas. To address this situation Chuck Nelson, Professor, from Michigan State University, conducted some listening sessions in several “distressed” community locations (Marquette, Roscommon, Muskegon, Kalamazoo, Taylor and Saginaw). These are some of the concerns they heard:
  • Lack of match
  • Lack of dollars for planning in order to prepare a proposal
  • Their budget situation is such that they can barely keep their existing facilities running, let alone developing and operating a new facility
  • Perceived complexity in preparing the grant application
The community representatives also offered various recommendations for changes in the application process, all of which were taken into account by the staff in preparing proposed revisions to the scoring criteria. Here is a general summary of the changes that the Natural Resources Trust Fund Board approved to help address the above concerns and others. There are now 13 priority project types instead of 6. Trails and greenways is one of those projects. Every year the board will decide 3 priority project types that will receive extra points. The board decided the 2009 priority project types to be 1) trails and greenways; 2) projects in urban areas; and 3) wildlife and ecological corridors. All projects fitting these categories will receive 50 extra points, but contrary to past years, your project can only fit in one category, so the most you can get is 50.
  • Projects for both acquisition and development are awarded extra points for:
  • Never having received a Natural Resources Trust Fund grant
  • Having a formal recreation department or parks commission or committee
  • Being located within a core city, or a metropolitan statistical area (an inner ring city) or a micropolitan statistical area (most of these are small cities in otherwise rural areas)
  • No charging of entrance fees to recreational facilities or at least providing a waiver for low-income visitors or having another mode of entry (bike or walk) in which the visitor is not charged a fee
  • For urban projects: the site sits on a public transportation route
  • Having greater financial need, i.e., jurisdictions in upper 1/3 of median household income get no points, middle 1/3 of median household income gets ½ the points and lowest 1/3 of median household income gets full points
  • Presenting a plan for how the public will be made aware of the project
Points for match will be awarded based on ability to pay. Proposals from jurisdictions that are in the bottom 1/3 of median household income will receive some points for match contribution of higher than 25% and the highest points possible for a match of 50% or greater. Middle 1/3 of median household income receive some points (not as many) for match of higher than 25% and only 2/3 of the points possible for a match of 50% or greater. The top 1/3 of median household income communities do not receive points until they match at 30% or greater and only receive ½ the points possible for a match of 50% or greater. There was discussion (proposed by MTGA) about possibly having a sliding scale whereby all communities are able to gain the full points possible, but the board decided to wait a year and see how the new change works out. For acquisition projects, extra points are awarded for:
  • Being part of a green infrastructure plan for the community, region, or ecoregion
  • Fee simple purchases rather than easements
For development projects, extra points are awarded for:
  • Use of environmentally friendly materials and innovative technology
  • Plans for addressing potential crime issues
  • Renovation projects that are not needed as a result of inadequate maintenance
  • Demonstrating the incorporation of universal design to accommodate persons with disabilities
Also in the new process will be a provision for small grant awards both for acquisition (possibly $500,000 total) and development (possibly $250,000 total). Included in the original proposal was the elimination of the August 1 second application deadline for last minute submittals. In response to quite a bit of opposition (MTGA included) to the 2nd deadline elimination, the board voted to keep it intact for this year. Next year, there may be a shifting of points to reward those who submit at the 1st deadline so as to lessen the pressure on grants management staff who have been receiving an increasing number of applications at the 2nd deadline. Overall, I think trails are still well-positioned to receive funding from the Natural Resources Trust Fund, and this year, especially in the urban areas. That is, of course, the Legislature decides to tamper with it. WE understand there was a senate joint resolution introduced today by Senator Sheltrown that would open up the constitution to amend the Trust Fund! See Michigan DNR These links are checked on the date of the article. As the article ages, some links may become invalid Go To for all the news See Get Off The Couch

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