MICHIGAN: Governor Whitmer Proposes $250M for State Parks, Trails

LANSING, Michigan, June 20, 2021 (ENS) – Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer wants to invest $250 million in federal relief dollars from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan in state parks and trails and to address the backlog of park infrastructure projects, which will help support Michigan businesses and local economies.

“Tourism is vital to Michigan’s economy and to our overall economic health, and COVID disproportionately harmed our tourism and hospitality sectors,” said Governor Whitmer. “Investments in our public spaces make Michigan a more competitive and attractive destination for tourism, position us as a recreation leader, and are critical components of our seasonal and rural economies.

“This is a valuable use of our federal funds to help the communities who rely on tourism rebound from the public health crisis, the governor said. “Parks bring us together. They are equally beloved by all Michiganders, regardless of geography or income, race or class or politics.”

On average, every $1 invested in land conservation leads to $4 in economic benefit. Investments in parks uplift communities and this will help Michigan continue to jumpstart the economy as the state emerges from the pandemic, the governor said.

As people found creative ways to socially distance during the pandemic, the state saw a 30 percent increase in visitors to state parks and recreation areas. Michigan’s outdoor recreation industry supports billions in state GDP and sustains 126,000 jobs and over $4.7 billion in wages and salaries in Michigan.

Dan Eichinger heads the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. (Photo courtesy State of Michigan)

“As the number of visitors to Michigan’s 103 state parks has increased dramatically over the past couple of years, we’ve seen greater demands our park and trail infrastructure,” said Dan Eichinger, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “The funding announced by the governor today will give our state parks a badly needed boost, while also aiding the state’s recovery through our natural resources and outdoor recreation tourism.”

The funding will be used for projects that include upgrading water and sanitary systems, preserving historic structures, and installing and improving vital park infrastructure.

In 2012, a 16-member Michigan State Parks and Outdoor Recreation Blue Ribbon Panel reported seven core recommendations to then Governor Rick Snyder, including a recommendation to invest in the safety and maintenance of, and access to, parks and recreation spaces. The panel believed implementing the recommendations would position Michigan to meet the needs of its citizens, visitors and communities throughout the 21st century.
The new investment announced by Governor Whitmer will put Michigan closer to realizing the vision of the Blue Ribbon Panel.

“We’ve seen an increase in men, women and families rediscovering their passion for the outdoors and turning to Carhartt for the gear they need,” said Linda Hubbard, president of Carhartt, an American workwear apparel group. “Additionally, when you consider that in Michigan alone, the outdoor recreation industry generates 126,000 direct jobs, we have the opportunity to outfit many of these hardworking individuals from head-to-toe in Carhartt, helping them get the job done.”

“Addressing the backlog of infrastructure needs within our State Parks has been a goal of many organizations for a number of years,” said Clay Summers, executive director of the Michigan Recreation and Park Association. “This investment will not only help Michigan’s State Parks but in the long run, it will truly help all parks in the state.

“By meeting the needs of the State Parks, your local city, township, county and regional park systems will now be priority recipients of grant funding and other alternative sources,” Summers said. “This is a huge win for all Michigan residents and will provide safe, accessible and inclusive park systems for all.”

Featured image: Lower Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Timberlost, Michigan, October 6, 2007 (Photo by James Marvin Phelps)

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