If you’re wondering how to take full advantage of Northern Michigan’s outdoors by camping, fishing, boating, hiking, or biking, there is one tool that can grant you access to the full gamut of state parks and recreation areas our great state has to offer: the Michigan Recreation Passport! Beyond the outdoor opportunities it offers, there are other benefits to purchasing the Recreation Passport. Read on to find out how and why to acquire the passport, and how you’re helping Michigan (and your wallet!) by doing so.

What is the Recreation Passport?

Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources adapted this system in 2010 to provide a sustainable source of income to the Parks and Recreation department for maintenance and improvements of state-owned parks and recreation areas. Recreation Passport holders are granted with access to state parks, recreation areas, state forest campgrounds, boat launch parking, and more. The physical form of the passport is represented by two small “P’s” on the top and bottom of your license plate registration sticker if you have a Michigan registered vehicle; it is displayed as a window sticker if you purchase the passport at a state park or are a non-Michigan registered vehicle.

How Do I Get It?

A simple process gets both Michigan residents and out-of-staters access to Michigan’s unbridled natural beauty:

Michigan Residents

If you’re a Michigander, there are two ways to purchase a Recreation Passport for the nominal cost of $11 ($5 for motorcycles):

  1. When you renew your license at your local Secretary of State office (or by mail or online), all you need to do is check “yes” for the Recreation Passport. Your license registration sticker will then be printed with the “P’s” and “Recreation Passport” will be printed on the top of your vehicle registration. The passport will be valid until your next license registration renewal date.
  2. If you didn’t check “yes” when renewing your license, Recreation Passports can be purchased at state parks and recreation areas as well as DNR Operation Service Centers throughout the state. When bought this way, your passport will be in the form of a window sticker.

Non-Michigan Residents

If you’re from out of state and still want to enjoy Michigan’s outdoors, you can purchase an annual passport online for your non-Michigan registered vehicle for $31. The passport will be valid until December 31st of the year it was purchased and will appear as a window sticker. Annual and daily out-of-state passports can also be bought at state parks and recreation areas.

Why Should I Buy the Recreation Passport?

Besides the obvious reasons of being able to experience Michigan’s outdoors, your being a passport holder will endow you and the state with other significant benefits.

The Passport Perks Program: Not Possible to Pass Up

When you purchase your Recreation Passport through the Secretary of State, you’re automatically eligible to partake in the Passport Perks Program. Approximately 1,000 Michigan businesses—the number is constantly growing—are currently participating in the program, which provides discounts to passport holders across a diverse range of products, from free coffee from your favorite local java house to discounts on oil changes, tax consultations and groceries. You can visit the DNR Passport Perks providers database to browse by city or by category to see which businesses are participating throughout the state.

Improvements in Infrastructure and Amenities

That $11 Passport fee will result in astronomical improvements to Michigan’s state parks and recreation areas. Income from Recreation Passports has already helped to upgrade over a dozen state parks with electrical upgrades, sewage and sanitation improvements, additions of toilet/shower buildings, and repaving of day-use and entrance drives. Bewabic State Park of Iron County has even repurposed 16 campsites to be ADA-compliant, creating a better camping experience for visitors with disabilities.

All the revenue from the Recreation Passport program goes toward enhancing Michigan’s parks and recreation areas. “This is part of our strategic plan to rebuild and modernize the Michigan state park system,” said Ron Olson, chief of DNR Parks and Recreation Division. “While many upgrades and improvements have been made, there still remains nearly $300 million in outdated or failing park infrastructure throughout the state. By purchasing the Recreation Passport, you are also helping to support and improve the Michigan state park system.”

For more information on the Recreation Passport and how to get involved in the program, visit Michigan.gov.

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