The parks systems of America have experienced falling attendance and decreased funding for years. This is especially true in Michigan. In 2003, the Michigan legislature cut $9 million from the parks annual general fund spending. The recession and budget crises of the late 2000’s meant further slashes while attendance and the associated revenue continued to fluctuate. Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recognized the need to either find new sources for funding or adjust their current policies.
In 2009, then Michigan Parks and Recreation Director Ron Olson looked to different models for revenue, zeroing in on a successful model used in Montana’s state parks. This led to
the creation of Michigan’s Recreation Passport. The Recreation Passport is simple and easy to attain. Prior to 2009, residents had to pay $24 for an annual park pass that consisted of a sticker purchased from the Division of Parks and Recreations to be placed on a car windshield. Now residents can purchase a Recreation Passport at the Department of Motor Vehicles when they renew their license plate. The passport takes the form of a small “P” that is stamped into their license plate. By simply checking a box on their form and paying the $11 fee, residents with motor vehicles obtain access to 98 different state parks, recreation areas, and boat launches throughout Michigan. Residents can also purchase annual stickers at State Parks for the same amount of $11. Day passes for residents, which previously cost $6, are no longer available. However, out of state citizens can purchase day passes for $9.
Overall, this venture has been a major success. Initial numbers were higher than expected. About 25% of Michigan residents opted for the program during its first year and that number continues to grow. This means that funds for Michigan state parks systems have also grown by $4.4 million from 2009 to 2014 as indicated in the above table.
The parks system still has problems. During the worst of the recession, Michigan’s parks systems were neglected and deferred capital improvement projects peaked at around $330 million. The system continues to work on increasing possible attractions to the parks throughout the state to help with this issue. One such innovation is the Passport Perks Program. This program provides discounts to passport holders at over 1,000 business locations throughout Michigan. This initiative has also helped to improve general and specified infrastructure. By further improving facilities, trails, programming, etc. the parks become more attractive, both physically and as a place for potential consumers. Basic upgrades and improvements are necessary to keep these parks day-to-day operations running smoothly. Without these upgrades, the parks will become outdated and, in some cases, unsafe.
Michigan’s natural surroundings are considered a major draw for both resident and out of state tourist, especially in some of the most remote regions. For this reason, it is important to keep our states natural resources easily accessible and in top condition.
Hausman, John S. "Michigan Recreation Passports: Easy to Buy, Hard to See." Mlive.com. N.p., 11 Feb. 2011. Web. 19 Mar. 2016.
"NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION ACT (EXCERPT) Act
451 of 1994." - Page Not Found. Michigan Legislature, n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2016.
Roelofs, Ted. "Bridge Five Years Later, State Parks Recreation Passport a Financial
Success." Bridge Michigan. N.p., 16 July 2015. Web. 19 Mar. 2016.
Steiger, Sig. "The Plentiful Perks of the Michigan Recreation Passport –
MyNorth.com." MyNorth.com. N.p., 30 July 2014. Web. 19 Mar. 2016.
"You Are Here, SOS Owning a Vehicle." SOS. Michigan Department of State, n.d. Web.
19 Mar. 2016.
"You Are Here,DNR Grants Recreation Passport Grants." DNR. Michigan Department
of State, n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2016.