by Scott McClallen
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday signed House Bill 4469 which appropriates $37.8 million in Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grants for 76 recreation projects and land purchases throughout Michigan.
“The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund supports quality outdoor recreation, giving Michiganders the ability to safely enjoy the outdoors and boosting local economies,” Whitmer said in a statement. “This funding is crucial to helping communities utilize their natural resources and make Michigan’s public spaces more accessible and attractive to residents and visitors. I am proud to sign this piece of bipartisan legislation into law and support Michigan’s recreational resources and economy.”
The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund is a restricted fund established in 1976 to provide funding for public acquisition of lands for resource conservation and outdoor recreation.
It is funded through interest earned on funds derived from the development of publicly owned minerals. Over the past 45 years, the Trust Fund has granted more than $1.2 billion to state and local units of government to improve recreation opportunities in Michigan.
The Trust Fund board recommends funding to both state and local agencies for development projects and land acquisitions that will increase public outdoor recreation opportunities. This round of grant funding includes continued support of:
- Trail systems, specifically those with broad regional and statewide impact and connectivity.
- Acquisitions of high-quality, unique natural resources including geologic features, wildlife habitat, and Great Lake and river access.
- An extensive range of development projects that expand opportunities across Michigan for camping, fishing, biking, hiking and snowmobiling.
- 26 acquisition grants were awarded to local units of government for a total of $20.8 million, while four acquisition grants went to the Department of Natural Resources for projects totaling nearly $6.5 million.
- The Trust Fund board also recommended $9.3 million in 42 development grants to local units of government, while four DNR projects garnered $1.2 million.
- The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund board considered 136 applications seeking more than $60 million in funding. In a competitive process, all applications were carefully evaluated based on scoring criteria approved by the board.
Dan Eichinger, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, welcomed the support.
“Appreciation for Michigan’s outdoor spaces and recreation opportunities has always been strong, but this past year was an important reminder of how valuable these resources are to our residents,” Eichinger said in a statement. “People increasingly used and relied on these spaces to hike, bike, camp, hunt, fish and explore, or to share the outdoors with their kids, and many of these opportunities were fully or partially funded by Trust Fund grants.”
Whitmer signed the bill on Discovery Pier at Greilickville Harbor Park in Elmwood Charter Township, which will receive $300,000 to further the recreation-based development of the pier area around the old coal dock.
Planned amenities at Discovery Pier include a universal access kayak launch and trailhead on the West Grand Traverse Bay Water Trail, paved parking, a rain garden with native Michigan plants for stormwater management, dark-sky-compliant LED lighting, shade pavilions, and an environment that welcomes deep-water fishing, picnicking and birdwatching.
“I think this is a great example of how a local municipality, a nonprofit and the state can work together to create a special place,” Elmwood Township supervisor Jeffrey Shaw said in a statement “We’re happy to have the Discovery Pier here in Elmwood Township and we look forward to working together for years to come.”
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.