ST. IGNACE, Mich. (WILX) – On the city’s 350th birthday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer stopped in St. Ignace to announce a record investment in Michigan’s state parks and trails.
In the shadow of the Mackinac Bridge from Straits State Park, Gov. Whitmer announced her plan for critical investments in state parks and trails so that public spaces across Michigan become a more attractive destination for tourism and position the state as a recreation leader.
The plan calls for a historic investment of $250 million in federal relief dollars from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan be used for new investments in parks and trails and to address the backlog of park infrastructure projects, which will help support Michigan businesses and local economies.
“Tourism is vital to Michigan’s economy and to our overall economic health, and COVID disproportionately harmed our tourism and hospitality sectors,” said Gov. Whitmer. “Investments in our public spaces make Michigan a more competitive and attractive destination for tourism, position us as a recreation leader, and are critical components of our seasonal and rural economies. This is a valuable use of our federal funds to help the communities who rely on tourism rebound from the public health crisis. Parks bring us together. They are equally beloved by all Michiganders, regardless of geography or income, race or class or politics.”
During the pandemic, as people found creative ways to socially distance, the state saw a 30% increase in visitors to state parks and recreation areas. Michigan’s outdoor recreation industry supports billions in state GDP and sustains 126,000 jobs and over $4.7 billion in wages and salaries in Michigan.
Tourism to Michigan parks generates value for surrounding communities, creates jobs, and sustains small businesses. On average, every $1 invested in land conservation leads to $4 in economic benefit. Investments in parks uplift communities and this will help Michigan continue to jumpstart the economy as the state emerges from the pandemic.
Michigan’s state parks have had a $350 million backlog for maintenance.
“Addressing the backlog of infrastructure needs within our State Parks has been a goal of many organizations for a number of years,” said Clay Summers, Executive Director of the Michigan Recreation and Park Association. “This investment will not only help Michigan’s State Parks but in the long run, it will truly help all parks in the state. By meeting the needs of the State Parks, your local city, township, county and regional park systems will now be priority recipients of grant funding and other alternative sources. This is a huge win for all Michigan residents and will provide safe, accessible and inclusive park systems for all.”
In 2012, a 16-member Michigan State Parks and Outdoor Recreation Blue Ribbon Panel reported seven core recommendations to then Gov. Rick Snyder, including a one to invest in the safety and maintenance of, and access to, parks and recreation spaces.
The panel believed implementing the recommendations would put Michigan in a position to meet the needs of its citizens, visitors and communities throughout the 21st century. The investment announced on Thursday will make strides toward Michigan realizing the vision of the state parks and outdoor recreation panel.
“We’ve seen an increase in men, women and families rediscovering their passion for the outdoors and turning to Carhartt for the gear they need,” said Linda Hubbard, President of Carhartt. “Additionally, when you consider that in Michigan alone, the outdoor recreation industry generates 126,000 direct jobs, we have the opportunity to outfit many of these hardworking individuals from head-to-toe in Carhartt, helping them get the job done.”