by Bruce Walker
The belated arrival of spring is finally due to arrive this weekend. Those inclined to pack their tents or hitch their campers and trailers, however, are being told overnight visitors in the state’s campgrounds aren’t welcome.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order to suspend overnight camping during the coronavirus pandemic could impact Michigan’s state and local economies.
Camping is one of the state’s most dependable revenue streams to fund the Department of Natural Resources and upkeep of the state’s land and water resources.
According to the U.S. National Park Service, visitors to Michigan parks contributed approximately $237 million to the state’s economy in 2018. The NPS reports “2.7 million park visitors spent an estimated $237 million in local gateway regions while visiting National Park Service lands in Michigan.”
The bulk of that amount is in hotel (41 percent or $97.5 million) and restaurant expenditures (21 percent, or $49.5 million), followed by groceries (9.35 percent, or $22 million) and gas (8.6 percent, or $20.5 million). Camping represents 4 percent of visitor spending; although relatively small comparatively, camping still generates nearly $9.5 million in revenue for state coffers and predominately rural economies.
Further, the NPS reports: “These expenditures supported a total of 3,380 jobs, $112 million in labor income, $204 million in value added, and $339 million in economic output in the Michigan economy.”
The governor has closed Michigan’s state parks and recreation areas to overnight camping until June 21. Camping in state forest campgrounds is prohibited until “at least June 9,” according to the Department of Natural Resources.
The DNR also noted dispersed camping is suspended until May 28. Dispersed camping is defined as any camping on state-managed property that isn’t a “designated state park, recreation area, rustic state forest campground or game area. The campsite must also be located more than one mile from a rustic state forest campground.” Camping in dispersed areas is free, but campers still contribute to local economies.
The Michigan Freedom Fund on Friday released its estimate of lost revenue in the state because of the governor’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the MFF, Michigan will lose $3.3 billion in potential revenue in fiscal year 2020. The MFF also stated the governor will be cutting government services to make up for a deficit of $2.6 billion.
According to the Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference held on Friday, Michigan’s General Fund revenue was adjusted $2 billion under the $9 billion forecast issued in January.
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Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.