MTGA Applauds Introduction Of Recreation Passport Reforms
June 20, 2019
Old Town, Lansing, MI — Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, the statewide voice for non-motorized trail users, announced its support today for a bipartisan, bicameral package of bills that reform the Recreation Passport program and secure a more stable source of funding for state and local trails and parks.
The new bipartisan, bicameral package of legislation will mirror the intent of the original package of Recreation Passport bills adopted ten years ago and provide millions more in funding for parks and trails. Senator Dale Zorn and Representatives Gary Howell and Rebekah Warren signaled a new legislative effort to finally complete the plan to move Recreation Passport registration from opt-in to opt-out.
Representative Howell, chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, has been a dedicated supporter of the legislation and is focused on getting the bills across the finish line this legislative session. “These reforms will benefit every Michigander who loves the parks and trails of this great state, exclaimed Howell. “The funds raised will help to provide a sustainable future for outdoor recreation in Michigan.”
Senator Dale Zorn, chair of the Senate Local Government Committee, supports moving to opt-out and increasing the local recreation grant component from 10 to 15% to help improve local trails and parks. “Public access to outstanding parks and trails is part of what makes Michigan attractive to tourists and such a great place to live,” Zorn said. “This legislation will help to provide the kind of support that we all need to continue our leadership with trails and parks without raising taxes and fees.”
Representative Rebekah Warren, a sponsor of the original Recreation Passport and the new legislation, echoed her support for the package. “In my time as a legislator, there are a few significant pieces of legislation that I like to hold out as an example of bipartisan cooperation, Warren explained. “The original Recreation Passport legislation and these important reforms are examples of the work we can do together for all Michiganders. At heart, I am a park lover and am simply pleased to be doing my part to make our parks and trails more accessible and sustainable.”
Bob Wilson, Executive Director of the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, notes that this package, with its bipartisan support, is another great tool to continue to bridge the political divide and produce legislation that is good for all Michiganders. “The Recreation Passport program has shown great value for all Michigan parks and trail users and, at $11 per year, is likely the greatest recreation value of any program in the country,” said Wilson. “The Passport opens the door to all state parks, and boating access sites stimulate local economies, and has helped to build and maintain more local parks and trails.”
“As we look across the landscape for funding related to parks and trails in Michigan, rarely are local communities, or the state for that matter, able to set aside general fund dollars,” said Clay Summers, Executive Director of mParks, the statewide voice for the parks and recreation community. “Since 2010, the Recreation Passport program has certainly provided an additional source of funding through the local grants program, but in its current form, those funds are limited,” explained Summers. “We’re hoping to enlighten Michigan residents on how the switch from the Passport’s current opt-in to the proposed opt-out model and increasing funding to local projects from 10% to 15% will improve their local parks and increase funding in both the local and state funding buckets.”
The legislation is a high priority for Senator Zorn and Representatives Howell and Warren and appears to be headed for early committee activity.