After record parks turnout, Gov. Whitmer proposes more funding
On the heels of a record year for Michigan parks attendance due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced last week a proposal to spend an additional $150 million in American Rescue Plan funds to improve infrastructure at local parks across Michigan. The announcement is an addition to the $250 million Whitmer announced in June for upgrades to the state’s park system, which the Michigan Environmental Council also supported.
The budget proposal, which requires approval from the state legislature, would create a grant program administered by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources that seeks to enhance the economies, health and recovery of local communities across the state.
Michigan currently has roughly 4,000 local parks. The Michigan Environmental Council will be a strong advocate to ensure the total of $400 million in park improvement spending is included in the state budget.
"The COVID-19 pandemic brought more people than ever before to experience our state’s natural beauty and reinforced to many the importance of investing in quality outdoor amenities," said Conan Smith, MEC President & CEO. "Gov. Whitmer's proposal is a smart investment that will bolster Michigan’s outdoor economy while ensuring our parks have the modern infrastructure necessary to accommodate their enjoyment for generations to come."
"Our local parks have long been an unsung hero to our communities. They have provided peace and tranquility, exercise and recreation, and fun for families large and small" said Sandra Turner-Handy, MEC engagement director. "It is important that they are maintained to a level that keeps them accessible to all and we encourage all Michigan residents to strongly support these proposed investments.”
MEC's work to see the funding through will build on recent conservation wins:
- The advocacy for and creation of the Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry. Brad Garmon, MEC's former director of conservation and emerging issues, became the office's first director in 2019.
- The passage of Proposal 1, which would fund parks across the state in perpetuity through the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. MEC's 501(c)4, the Sustainable Michigan Fund, co-led Prop 1's campaign.