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Mott Foundation helps Genesee County Parks

Facing a major funding shortfall, the Genesee County Parks and Recreation Commission is getting some critical help from a $1.27-million grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

The grant, which coincides with the Oct. 1 beginning of the county's new fiscal year, will help keep the parks system — the largest in Michigan — both strong and ready to welcome a growing number of visitors.

The park system is funded through a county property tax millage, which was renewed by voters in 2006 and expires in 2016. Falling property tax revenues — the result of declining land values in the area — is behind the expected budget shortfall.

Mott grantmaking related to the county parks has totaled nearly $17 million since 1965.

"The greater Flint community benefits enormously from the Genesee County Parks and Recreation Commission's stewardship of our local natural resources," said William S. White, president and CEO of the Mott Foundation. "At a time when this region, like many others across the country, is struggling with social and economic challenges, our system of Genesee County parks stands out as a prized asset for all local families to enjoy."

Roughly 500,000 visitors each year enjoy the system's 21 parks, which offer more than 600 recreational and educational opportunities, many without charge. These include playgrounds and picnic areas, a historic village and authentic narrow-gauge railroad, an arboretum and nature preserve, bicycle motocross and off-road vehicle tracks, hiking and equestrian trails, boat and canoe launches, swimming and water parks and camping facilities.

And a recent study found that the parks and their visitors have a significant financial impact, pumping more than $23 million into the local economy in 2009.

"The beauty of our county parklands is found not only in the parks themselves, but in the positive, restorative impact they have on the people who visit them," said Amy McMillan, the commission's director. "This grant comes at a critical time and is another example of just how important the Mott Foundation's continued belief in — and support of — Genesee County is to the community."

The commission, in a move to strengthen both its effectiveness and efficiency, has been working to streamline its business operations, reduce costs and diversify funding sources. McMillan notes that park staff in 2009 helped save nearly $167,000 in reduced fuel, office supply, utility and other expenses.

And she says that the number of park visitors continues to grow, with many area families choosing the local amenities over more distant — and often more expensive — recreational and vacation options.

The Mott grant reflects the foundation's longstanding commitment, especially in times of economic uncertainty, to help its home community of Genesee County address local needs. That support over the last year has included grants for large-scale economic and community development initiatives, as well as for such basic "safety-net" services as food distribution programs and shelters for homeless families.

The C.S. Mott Foundation, established in 1926 by an automotive pioneer, is a private philanthropy committed to supporting projects that promote a just, equitable and sustainable society. It supports nonprofit programs throughout the U.S. and, on a limited geographic basis, internationally.

Grantmaking is focused in four programs — civil society, environment, Flint area and pathways out of poverty. Besides Flint, offices are located in metropolitan Detroit, Johannesburg (South Africa) and London.

The foundation, with 2009 year-end assets of about $2.1 billion, made 469 grants of $109.3 million.

Visit Mott.org for more information.

(Note: This report is provided as a service to our readers and a service to the group or individual mentioned in the release. Usually, only minor editing is done. The group or individual is responsible for all information provided.)

 

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