Michigan State Parks to Receive $250 Million in Federal Funding

June 10, 2021

St. Ignace, MI — Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced $250,000,000 will be invested into Michigan’s State Parks to address infrastructure needs. This monumental investment, which is part of the American Rescue Plan, comes at a time when we are experiencing record-breaking attendance and use of our public spaces met with limited funding.

According to the Michigan DNR FY 2021 Capital Outlay Five-Year Plan, the Michigan DNR Parks and Recreation Department has identified and documented the need for 558 priority renovation and upgrade projects, estimated at a cost of $278 million. News of this funding will support nearly all of those needs.

“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 mParks. “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.

The COVID-19 Pandemic brought to light how parks, trails, and public lands shape public health. Michiganders found respite in their neighborhood parks; people developed daily routines of walking local trails, taking their children to playgrounds, and connecting with each other safely outdoors.

“With more public land than any state east of the Mississippi, outdoor recreation plays a vital role in the mental and physical health of every Michigander,” said Jonathan Jarosz, Executive Director, Heart of the Lakes. “While physical activity has long been established as having a positive effect on people with mental health challenges, studies have found that effect increases significantly in an outdoor setting versus indoors.”

While the benefits of the outdoors have been touted for years, the investments have not always matched. As outdoor recreation and park use continues to increase, park systems are struggling to keep up with infrastructure needs and staffing.

“Investments in outdoor recreation, the businesses and organizations who support them, play an extremely vital role in how thriving communities do their best work for the health outcomes of their people,” added Jarosz.

mParks, Heart of the Lakes, and Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance are excited to be part of the tremendous announcement. Michigan’s public spaces have been serving its residents for years and this is an opportunity to give back to those places.

“Last year, Michiganders showed up in droves to their local parks and trails,” explained Andrea LaFontaine, Executive Director, Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance. “They were demonstrating the importance of these outdoor places in their time of need – and making it clear that they use these parks, trails, and open spaces to invest in their own physical and mental health. It’s time for the state to invest in the critical infrastructure needs of these special recreational assets. I’m delighted to see that the Governor is making this a priority – and this significant investment will benefit today’s users and generations to come.”

Outdoor business alliances across the country — known as the State Outdoor Business Alliance Network (SOBAN) — have joined forces to elevate the vital importance of a thriving outdoor industry. A new report highlights the many ways that communities across the country benefit from increased investment in outdoor recreation.

Outdoor recreation in Michigan generates 26.6 billion in consumer spending and employs 232 thousand individuals. Nationwide, in 2019, outdoor recreation employed almost 5.2 million people who earned more than $226.3 billion dollars.  The report shares information from states around the country that illustrates the positive benefits of the outdoor recreation economy. Read the full report.

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