A grant proposal, if approved, would see a playing field added to the Cairns Community Center.

A grant proposal, if approved, would see a playing field added to the Cairns Community Center.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

State grant could pay for field, programs at Cairns Center

By: Dean Vaglia | Mount Clemens-Clinton-Harrison Journal | Published September 18, 2023


MOUNT CLEMENS — The Cairns Community Center has seen a great amount of activity since the city took over its lease, but an upcoming state grant could make substantial change for the facility.

The city of Mount Clemens has submitted an application for the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity’s MI Community Center Grant program, asking for $900,000 to build a playing field at the Cairns Center by filling in a retention pond.

“That field would be meant for soccer and lacrosse and just anything they could play on that kind of field,” said Laura Kropp, mayor of Mount Clemens. “There’s also some money in there for programming for youth sports on that field.”

The grant program was established using COVID-19 relief funds to improve community centers in historically underserved areas. Mount Clemens’ grant writer Linda Davis-Kirksey said the city is in the “top tier” of eligible candidates because the center already meets the grant’s requirements for an active facility, and economic factors show a need for free sports and activities in the city.

“We have a good opportunity because of our need, our population that we’re serving and the project in itself all meet the criteria that would lend it to be a good grant to the citizens,” Davis-Kirksey said.

While Mount Clemens is seen as a perfect fit for the grant funds, the Community Center Grant is a hotly competitive one.

“It is very competitive,” Davis-Kirksey said. “There were probably 1,000 people on that initial call when they first put out the (request for proposal) on the grant.”

Even with competition from around the state, Davis-Kirksey is confident Mount Clemens will be selected. She believes about 30 applicants will receive a share of $60 million in grant funds, which are limited to $2.5 million per award.

Applicants are expected to hear back from the state by Oct. 23, and project agreements will begin being issued by Oct. 30.

Even if Mount Clemens misses its share of the grant funds, improvements are being made to the facility thanks to Community Development Block Grant special projects. The 2022-23 CDBG project for the center was the purchase and installation of new air conditioning units, the installation of which is underway, and the 2023-24 project is the construction of a playground.

“In 2021 there were chains on the doors, and we have made significant investments and brought a lot of resources by grant money to the Cairns Community Center by recognizing that (the local) community specifically needs that community center,” Kropp said. “Now it is used by the entire community because of the programming we’ve been able to partner with and offer in the Cairns Community Center. I would say it’s a significant success story.”

The Cairns Community Center regularly hosts activities through Advancing Macomb’s Breaking Barriers to Play program, which partners with local youth groups to provide free and low-cost youth sports programs in Mount Clemens, Fraser and the Clintondale Community School District. Thomas Barnes of TCB Youth Mentoring oversees the program. To sign up for sports through Breaking Barriers to Play, visit www.breakingbarriers.io.