Michigan will see “critical” investments in state parks and trails through Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s plan targeting more tourism and recreation within the state’s public spaces.
Whitmer announced the move June 10 that calls for a “historic” $250 million investment. The funding will be derived from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which provides federal relief dollars to be used for new investments in parks and trails. The stated goal is to address a park infrastructure project backlog, helping to 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,” Whitmer said. “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. Parks bring us together. They are equally beloved by all Michiganders, regardless of geography or income, race or class or politics.”
Michigan’s park tourism generates local community value , Whitmer said, creating jobs and sustaining small businesses. The governor noted on average, every $1 invested in land conservation leads to $4 in economic benefit.
The state saw a 30% increase in visitors to state parks and recreation areas as people found ways to socially distance during the pandemic. Michigan’s outdoor recreation industry supports billions in state GDP, sustaining 126,000 jobs and more than $4.7 billion in Michigan wages and salaries.
“As the number of visitors to Michigan’s 103 state parks has increased dramatically over the past couple of years, we have 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 announcement spotlights park and trail modernization, improved access and future preservation. Funding will be directed toward projects such as upgrading water and sanitary systems and preserving historic structures, in addition to installing and improving park infrastructure.
“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. This is a huge win for all Michigan residents and will provide safe, accessible and inclusive park systems for all.”