But it’s not clear whether padding a trust fund is an authorized use of federal COVID stimulus dollars, which states are required to spend by the end of 2026.
Clay Summers, executive director of the Michigan Parks & Recreation Association, which represents public park systems statewide, said his organization was looking for more clarity before deciding whether or not to support the third bill.
Using COVID dollars to create permanent park funding âcertainly makes perfect sense in the world from a practical standpoint,â Summers said, ââ¦ but we’re not sure it’s legal at this pointâ.
If the endowment proposal passes the legal course, McBroom estimated it could increase annual funding for the parks system by tens of millions of dollars.
“This will allow us not to suffer from this infrastructure backlog in the future,” he said.
Spokesmen for Whitmer’s office said they “looked forward to” working with the legislature for the money.
âOne of our state’s greatest strengths is our pristine natural resources,â Whitmer spokesman Bobby Leddy said in an email to Bridge Michigan. “This is why Governor Whitmer and the Legislature have brought forward very similar proposals to make historic investments in our state and local parks.”
Spending proposals build on recommendations from a 2012 report Michigan State Parks and Outdoor Recreation Blue Ribbon Sign convened under Republican Governor Rick Snyder.
The proposed funding would represent a major boon to the state park system, whose annual operating budget this year is only $ 80 million, as well as $ 20 million for capital improvement projects.
Overall, said state park chief Ron Olson, the funding increases would be “huge” for a system that, while beloved, has long struggled to maintain its assets.
After decades of deteriorating conditions at Michigan’s 103 state parks, the state in 2010 created an annual $ 11 recreation passport that visitors can purchase for year-round access to state parks. This infused the system with new operating cash, helping the system’s budget go from around $ 48 million in fiscal 2011 to $ 80 million this year.
But the additional revenue generated from passports was not enough to reduce the maintenance backlog that had swelled over decades, leaving roads in shambles, obsolete facilities and unmaintained trails.
The money to fix these problems would come at a crucial time: Michigan’s parks have never been so popular. In state parks alone, visits have increased by 30% since the start of the pandemic.
âHe’s a legacy builder,â Olson said of the possible increase in funding. âIt’s a way to create that modern atmosphere so that people can have fun in a clean and safe park. “
The bills have been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee, where they await a hearing.