Advance Notice: Briefs

Whitmer signs bipartisan bill to invest $37.8M in outdoor recreation projects

By: - May 7, 2021 1:45 pm

Pictured Rocks National Seashore | Susan J. Demas

On Thursday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed off on legislation to appropriate $37.8 million in grants that will support 76 recreation projects and land purchases throughout the state as part of a long-established natural resources funding program.

The projects were recommended by the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board in December. The bipartisan bill, HB 4469, was sponsored by state Rep. Sue Allor (R-Wolverine).

“The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund supports quality outdoor recreation, giving Michiganders the ability to safely enjoy the outdoors and boosting local economies,” Whitmer said in a statement. “This funding is crucial to helping communities utilize their natural resources and make Michigan’s public spaces more accessible and attractive to residents and visitors. I am proud to sign this piece of bipartisan legislation into law and support Michigan’s recreational resources and economy.” 

The protected trust fund was established in 1976 and funded through revenue from state-owned mineral development. Its aim from the beginning has been to secure a restricted pot of money specifically to fund public acquisition of lands for research conservation, outdoor recreation and public outdoor recreation development projects.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund has granted more than $1.2 billion to state and local governments in the years since.

The most recent round of grant funding signed by Whitmer includes the continued support of trail systems, specifically those with broad regional and statewide impact and connectivity; acquisitions of high-quality, unique natural resources like geologic features and wildlife habitat; and a range of development projects to expand camping, fishing, biking, hiking and snowmobiling opportunities across Michigan.

“Appreciation for Michigan’s outdoor spaces and recreation opportunities has always been strong, but this past year was an important reminder of how valuable these resources are to our residents,” said Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Dan Eichinger, who also serves on the trust fund board.

“People increasingly used and relied on these spaces to hike, bike, camp, hunt, fish and explore, or to share the outdoors with their kids, and many of these opportunities were fully or partially funded by Trust Fund grants,” Eichinger said.

The $37.8 million breaks down into $27.3 million for acquisition grants (four grants to the DNR; 26 to local units of government) and $10.5 million for development grants (four grants to the DNR; 42 to local units of government).

The trust fund board in total had considered 136 grant applications seeking the funding before selecting the recipients. Those recommendations then went to the Michigan Legislature as part of the appropriations process, then to the governor’s desk once approved by lawmakers.

Whitmer signed the bill Thursday on Discovery Pier at Elmwood Charter Township’s Greilickville Harbor Park. The township is set to receive $300,000 for further development of the pier area.

“I think this is a great example of how a local municipality, a nonprofit and the state can work together to create a special place,” said Jeffrey Shaw, Elmwood Township supervisor. “We’re happy to have the Discovery Pier here in Elmwood Township and we look forward to working together for years to come.”

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).