Gov. Whitmer Unveils Plan for $250M State Parks Investment
Governor Gretchen Whitmer introduced a plan to pump $250 million of federal COVID-19 relief funds into Michigan’s State Parks system to make up for decades of underfunding.
In 2012, a 16-member Michigan State Parks and Outdoor Recreation Blue Ribbon Panel recommended the state needed $264 million to fix a backlog of projects across the state. That is a number that would take decades for the state to pay off, until the American Rescue Plan came and made it possible.
“I’m proposing that we use $250 million to work on the backlog of infrastructure projects and provide new investment,” said Gov. Whitmer.
It may be the largest single influx of funding the state parks system has ever seen.
After a record setting year, it is needed.
“Last year, we welcomed over 35 million visitors into our parks,” said Dan Eichinger, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, ”A 30% increase over 2019.”
“I think that 30% increase shows why the park system was so stressed,” said Whitmer, “It was older, it had not been maintained and then trying to support this many more people coming in.”
Replacing water and utility lines, preserving historic buildings and updating facilities, the list of projects stacked up across Michigan’s State Parks. Whitmer wants to wipe out almost all of the backlog, with $250 million of COVID-19 relief funds.
“$250 million is an incredible investment that we can make because of the American Rescue Plan,” said Whitmer, “I don’t think we had a solution to that whole number but we had been working really hard so that we can have a long term sustainable plan.”
The plan still has to be approved by the Republican-led legislature in their ongoing budget talks but Whitmer is confident the outdoors speaks to every Michigander.
“It’s something that is a point of pride and makes Michigan unique from other states,” said Whitmer, “When you look at it right now there’s no better place to be then right here, right now.”