RECREATION PASSPORT – THE CHOICE IS CLEAR
October 16, 2019
Old Town, Lansing, MI — Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance is part of a large conservation, recreation, business and local government coalition urging the Michigan Legislature to pass House Bills 4486, 4775 and 4776 in order to allow more Michigan citizens a clearer option of supporting their parks and trails.
The bills outline changes to the popular Recreation Passport Program, a product of the Michigan State Parks Advisory Committee, which provides grants to local recreation programs. The citizen’s advisory committee designed the program ten years ago after the successful Montana model which is an “opt-out” program rather than Michigan’s current “opt-in” approach. Participation in the our “opt-in” program has steadily increased from 24% to 33%, indicating our citizens are ready for the “opt-out” model.
As participation rates in the program have increased, revenues from the program have increased from $5 million to $13 million for state park operations and maintenance and $632,000 to $1.6 million for local recreation grants. Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance strongly supports implementing the original intent of the citizen’s advisory committee to meet the need for additional outdoor recreational opportunities.
“These bills also propose an increase from 10% to 15% in the amount of the Recreation Passport revenue going to local recreation grant programs that fund local trails and parks,” explained Bob Wilson, Executive Director of the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance. “That’s why passage of these bills is so important, a recent DNR statewide survey indicates access to local trails is the number one recreational need for our citizens.”
Wilson added that current law allows the Secretary of State up to $1 million a year to help administer the Recreation Passport Program. These are funds that can be used to help people understand the option to purchase a Recreation Passport is clearly that–a voluntary election to check a box if you do not want to purchase a Passport.
“Addressing both state and local park and trail funding shortfalls over the years has been very challenging to many municipalities and government agencies. Protecting the spaces that Michigan residents have expressed they love and cherish is so very important to the continued growth of our state,” said Clay Summers, Executive Director of mParks, the Michigan Recreation and Park Association. “By creating additional opportunities for residents to learn about and support the places they love without raising taxes is huge, and as the voice of Michigan’s parks and recreation community, mParks is fully supportive of moving the Recreation Passport option to “opt out”, giving every resident the opportunity to make a decision based on their own wants and needs,” Summers continued.
Michigan is the leading trails state in the country. “More and more people are using local trails and parks to connect with nature,” explained Wilson. “I have no doubt that providing a clearer choice for Michigan citizens to purchase the passport will result in more funding to enhance and expand our trails and parks to meet the recreational needs of our citizens and help connect our communities.”