Parks looking to crowdfunding, state grants to create spaces for all

Public projects are finding new backers with state grant-matched crowdfunding campaigns.

Three area parks are currently in Patronicity crowdfunding campaigns in hopes of gaining matching grants from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Two Douglas parks and one in downtown Holland have launched campaigns through the Michigan-based crowdfunding platform Patronicity, which has partnered with the MEDC.

'Partnerships are making it happen'

“It really allows us to get the whole community involved in the project,” says Dave Nyitray President/Chief Operating Officer of the Outdoor Discovery Center Network. “They can directly make this happen.”

The city of Holland, GMB Architecture + Engineering, and the Outdoor Discovery Center have partnered to bring a nature play park to the city’s Window on the Waterfront. They hope to raise $50,000 by July 19 which would then be matched by the MEDC.

“Partnerships are making it happen,” Nyitray says.

By bringing together the business, nonprofit, and municipal sectors with the public, the project is taking shape.

“It’s neat to see people willing to pitch in with the different skills and attributes they bring,” Nyitray says.

Public Spaces Community Places

Public Spaces Community Places is a collaborative effort of the MEDC, the Michigan Municipal League, and Patronicity, in which local residents can use crowdfunding to be part of the development of strategic projects in their communities and be backed with a matching grant from MEDC. Communities, nonprofits and other business entities can apply at

Holland State Park is one of the Public Spaces Community Places success stories. In 2016, the Patronicity crowdfunding effort to bring a new playground to the state park exceeded its goal by more than $2,000.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community development with the focus on growing Michigan’s economy. 

The Public Spaces Community Places initiative started in 2014 with MEDC providing matched funding of up to $50,000 for community improvement projects throughout Michigan. Since the launch of the program, 267 projects have been successful in reaching their goal, with $9.8 million raised from 47,364 individual donors. The MEDC has provided more than $8.4 million in matching grants. 

“Activating underused spaces and creating more vibrant and inclusive public places is what our program is all about,” said MEDC Senior Vice President of Community Development Michele Wildman. 

Parks in need of an update

In Douglas, the campaign hopes to refresh Beery Field’s playscapes and put in an entirely new playspace at Schultz Park. If the campaign reaches its crowdfunding goal of $25,000 by June 30, the project will win a matching grant with funds made possible by MEDC’s Public Spaces Community Places program. For project details or to donate, visit
A crowdfunding campaign aims to update the playground at Douglas' Beery Field with the help of crowdfunding and a state grant.

Both Beery Field and Schultz Park are highly visible and used recreation spaces for Douglas and the surrounding areas. However, they are in need of renovation to create inclusive and creative spaces for everyone. The updated and new play spaces will have ADA-compliant structures, sensory play, and an adult fitness area at Schultz Park.

Nature Play Park in downtown

Window on the Waterfront is owned by the city of Holland, and the play space will be a part of the city’s parks system.

At the moment, there is no playground within walking distance of Holland’s core downtown. 

With the mission of “advancing outdoor education and conservation in West Michigan,” the Outdoor Discovery Center Network includes the Macatawa Greenway, DeGraaf Nature Center, Project Clarity and other organizations. The original Outdoor Discovery Center at 4214 56th St. has 3 miles of trails on 160 acres of ecologically diverse land and its own nature play park.

The Outdoor Discovery Center staff have also created nature play parks at nearly a dozen schools and churches. If the Window on the Waterfront project is funded, it will be one of the largest they have created, Nyitray says.

The Outdoor Discovery Center staff have built nature play parks for several area churches and schools, including a preschool at Ridge Point Church.

If they meet the crowdfunding goal to raise $50,000 by July 19, the MDEC will match that, and construction could begin immediately. Work could be complete before the end of summer, Nyitray says.

Puzzle pieces

Because of the use of natural materials, it is a bit like putting together a puzzle, Nyitray says. Every tree is a different shape and size.

The playscape will also include accessible paths, creative play areas, an amphitheater and a pavilion.

“They’ve been really popular because of their focus on natural materials and the way they promote creative play,” Nyitray says.

To see an example of a nature play park, visit the Outdoor Discovery Center, 4214 56th St., dawn to dusk, 365 days a year. Entrance is free.
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Read more articles by Andrea Goodell.