Big Investments on the Way for State and Local Parks

Wednesday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer singed the Building Michigan Together Plan. Within the plan is $450 million for state and local parks. The Chief of Parks and Recreation at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Ron Olson, says it’s an exciting investment.

Pkg00 00 31 01still001“It won’t take care of everything, but what we want to do is get caught up so we can pace it out and continue with the funding that we do have,” Olson says.

The parks investment has three big projects: The Grand Rapids Greenway, The Joe Louis Greenway in Detroit and the ski jump in the Western U.P. Two projects will see the creation of two new parks. The Grand Rapids Greenway and the Joe Louis Greenway in Detroit. The third is to go towards rebuilding the ski jump in the Western U.P. $250 million out of the $450 million is for state park rehabilitation modernization. From that $250 million, $30.2 million will be used to establish a new state park in Flint.. There will also be $65 million in grants for local parks to apply for.

“We’re hoping to get value out of every dollar we can,” Olson admits.

Steve Largent, Conservation Team Coordinator for the Grand Traverse County Conservation District, hopes for bigPkg00 00 17 06still002 things from the investment. He says he’s hoping some of that money will find it’s way to northwest Michigan.

“We’re very hopeful that some of that money does trickle up,” Largent says

He says the investment would allow the The Conservation District to build a bridge where the Sabin Dam once was.

“When Sabin Dam was removed in 2018, it served a bridge across the river. The dam and the power house served as an unofficial bridge that people used to get from one side of the river to the other,” Largent recalls.

A woman from Manistee County, Susan Wilhite, says she’s been taking her grandchildren to the Conservation District for years. She says the investment is very exciting and will only further adventures for families.

“The last time I was here it was in September and I was with two granddaughters and we went down by the river and we walked all around. And to think that the two bodies of land could be connected and people could access both,” Wilhite says.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says the money won’t take care of everything, but will get the parks caught up.

“Well this is the biggest single investment that has ever been done. Now there’s been years in the past, there’s been bond issues and things like that that have been significant as well. But this is on an order of magnitude that’s as big as any ever,” Olson declares.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says that for every dollar invested in the parks, there is a four dollar return from tourism. And in northwest Michigan where tourists come from all around to visit the parks, the investment is huge for those communities. Largent says the investment will help not only the parks, but the people who visit them as well.

“As this area grows it’s nice to be able to preserve some of these natural areas for people who visit here or come here to enjoy,” Largent says. “But we need to take care of them, we need to make sure they’re safe and sustainable. This will really help that effort.”