This November, Michigan residents will have the chance to further the protection and preservation of the state’s parks and natural lands, and a coalition of environmental advocates, hunters, fishers and business leaders are hoping they’ll take advantage of it.
For more than 40 years, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund has served as a key funding source for Michigan’s parks, allocating more than $1 billion to protect the state’s natural resources. This includes more than $7.1 million across 10 grants to Emmet County alone, which has funded the acquisition of land and created public parks such as Headlands International Dark Sky Park, Little Traverse Bay View Park, Resort Bluffs and Pet-O-Se-Ga campground. The trust fund also contributed to portions of the Little Traverse Wheelway, which is utilized by more than 10,000 people daily in the summer months.
If approved by voters on November 3, the Michigan Use of State and Local Park Funds Amendment will change how revenue in the state’s park-related funds can be spent, including removing the cap on the size of the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (it reached its $500 million cap in 2011). The amendment would also make projects to renovate recreational facilities eligible for grants and allow the parks endowment fund to be spent on park operations and maintenance.
“Though people often don’t realize it, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund has provided Michigan’s citizens and visitors with some of the most popular natural areas throughout our state,” says Kieran Fleming, executive director of Little Traverse Conservancy. “Many Lake Michigan access points in the northwest part of the state were made possible through this fund. And several of the large projects that Michigan’s land trusts have completed cooperatively with the Department of Natural Resources have received trust fund grants, protecting literally thousands and thousands of acres along some of our most treasured natural features.”
In an effort to educate voters on the upcoming ballot measure, Heart of the Lakes, a statewide land conservation organization, coordinated an educational campaign and website (protectmi.org) to help the public understand how their favorite parks are largely funded with money from the trust fund.
“We are so fortunate to have this pool of money in Michigan and, if the ballot passes this fall, more support for basic infrastructure at these protected lands will be greatly appreciated by all who visit them,” Fleming says.
Learn More: For a detailed breakdown of the ballot measure and how it would increase funding for parks, visit ballotpedia.org and search for Michigan Use of State and Local Park Funds Amendment.