Advance Notice: Briefs

Gilchrist announces plan to provide free lifetime state park access to Michigan veterans

By: - November 13, 2023 1:05 pm

Sleepy Hollow State Park | Susan J. Demas

Michigan veterans would be given free lifetime access to state parks under a proposal announced on Veterans Day by Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist.

“Michigan’s veterans are the best of us, and we can never do enough to live up to the sacrifices they have made,” said Gilchrist. “In next year’s budget proposal, we plan to give every one of Michigan’s 530,000 veterans free lifetime access to a state park.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist speaks at Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “What’s Next Address” in Lansing on Aug. 30, 2023. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

“Our state parks are full of incredible natural resources and offer mental and physical benefits to visitors, which is why Governor [Gretchen] Whitmer and I have worked hard to help more Michiganders get outdoors and explore all our state has to offer. We are proud of this step forward to better serve veterans and we will continue making Michigan the best place to be a veteran.” 

 The proposal, which will also apply to current active-duty service members, will be included in Whitmer’s Fiscal Year 2025 budget recommendation. 

If passed, Gilchrist said it would involve a partnership between the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and the Department of Natural Resources. This would make Michigan the third state in the country, after Oklahoma and Maine, to offer such a benefit.

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers, adjutant general and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said the plan sets Michigan apart for its treatment of veterans.

“In the Michigan National Guard, we continue to work to improve the overall quality of life for those that choose to serve and the families that make it all possible,” he said in a statement. “With free lifetime access to a state park for military members and veterans, Michigan continues to strengthen its national profile as a great place for the military, veterans, and their families to live, work, and retire.” 

The investments touted by the Whitmer administration as supporting the state’s military members and their families include:

  • Signed legislation lowering costs for families of disabled veterans by eliminating red tape and ensuring spouses can maintain property tax exemptions. 
  • Expanded the National Guard tuition assistance program to cover spouses and dependents, lowering the cost of higher education for military families. 
  • Removed barriers for veterans to get commercial driver’s licenses and signed a bill to help service members, veterans, and their dependents enter a licensed profession. 
  • Expanded veterans preference program to benefit veterans and service members looking to join state government. 
  • Reinvigorated the Michigan Veteran Friendly Schools program to highlight educational institutions that support military-connected students. 
  • Launched the statewide outreach and advertising campaign “I Served. I Am a Veteran,” to engage veterans, collect their stories, and connect them to benefits. 


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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King is the Senior Reporter for the Michigan Advance and has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2022 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell.