Gov. Whitmer announces historic $150 million investment in local parks and trails
Together with proposed investment in state parks, the plan would provide $400 million to revitalize communities across Michigan
LANSING, Mich. - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer today announced an historic investment in community parks and recreation facilities, proposing $150 million in federal relief dollars from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan be dedicated to addressing critical needs in local park systems. This investment will create good-paying, blue collar jobs across the state as we jumpstart our economy and get Michigan back to work.
Whitmer announced the proposal at the Idema Explorers Trail in Ottawa County, an example of a recreation property that could benefit from the new funding. The proposed investment would be administered as a grant program by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and would support the economies, health and recovery of communities across the state.
“These two new investment programs, totaling $400 million, mark a once-in-a-generation chance to improve quality of life for our residents, support local economies and bring people back to Michigan as the state continues its recovery from the effects of the pandemic,” Whitmer said. “These investments will ensure our children and grandchildren continue to enjoy the rejuvenating benefits of natural beauty and outdoor spaces so prized by Michiganders. I look forward to working with the Legislature to secure this investment for our communities.”
“Local parks are a critical part of the network of recreational opportunities throughout Michigan,” said DNR Director Dan Eichinger. “People just want good parks, and they don’t usually care who manages those parks provided the work is done well. Our local community partners do an outstanding job and we continue to support their work through a variety of means, including our Recreation Passport Grant program, which provides a portion of money generated by state parks to local communities for their park development. This new program would generally be modeled on our Recreation Passport grants to help local communities develop the recreational assets they need for the next generation."
"Infrastructure needs in the state’s estimated 4,000 local parks are substantial," said Emily Stevens, president of mParks Michigan Park and Recreation Association. "Local parks saw an influx of visitors in the past year as people sought safe, socially distanced outlets for recreation during the pandemic."
“We have been singing about the benefits of our local parks, trails, and greenspaces for years, however the investments have not always matched those benefits,” said Stevens. “This monumental funding will address the needs at our neighborhood parks and community gathering places to make them safer, more accessible and inclusive.”
Tourism to Michigan parks generates value for surrounding communities, creates jobs, and sustains small businesses. Michigan’s outdoor recreation industry supports billions in state Gross Domestic Product and sustains 126,000 jobs and over $4.7 billion in wages and salaries in the state. On average, every $1 invested in land conservation leads to $4 in economic benefit.
“Vibrant public parks and trails are essential to healthy communities, and they allow local economies to thrive,” said Jill Martindale, advocacy director for Velocity USA, a bicycle rim manufacturer in Grand Rapids. “This funding will support companies like ours that rely on these public spaces to help keep people employed. Besides, having access to beautiful parks and trails just makes our work more fun.”
One measure of recreational needs in local communities is the number of grant requests received each year by the DNR that go unfunded. Over the last five years, the average of development grant applications to the DNR for three primary grant programs – the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, Recreation Passport Grants and Land and Water Conservation Fund – has approached $40 million annually. Nearly $20 million of those annual requests could not be met because of lack of available funding.
“As residents recognized during the pandemic when they flocked to our parks, natural spaces should not be considered a luxury, but a necessity for our wellbeing,” said Jason Shamblin, director of Ottawa County Parks and Recreation. “The cost of acquiring natural spaces; designing, permitting, and building park infrastructure; and maintaining these facilities is consistently increasing. To keep providing this critical access to the outdoors through parks and trails, additional funding is an urgent need.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also proclaimed July as Parks and Recreation Month to highlight Michigan’s abundance of state, county and location community parks, as well as the many opportunities for outdoor recreation that residents can enjoy in every county across the state.