Big investments on the way for national and local parks
On Wednesday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the Building Michigan Together plan. The plan includes $450 million for national and local parks. Michigan Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Chief Ron Olson says it’s an exciting investment.
“It won’t fix everything, but what we want to do is catch up so we can pace it and continue with the funding we have,” Olson says.
The parks investment includes three major projects: the Grand Rapids Greenway, the Joe Louis Greenway in Detroit and the ski jump in Western UP. Two projects will see the creation of two new parks. The Grand Rapids Greenway and the Joe Louis Greenway in Detroit. The third is to move toward rebuilding ski jumping in the West. $250 million of the $450 million is for state park rehabilitation upgrades. Of that $250 million, $30.2 million will be used to create a new state park in Flint. There will also be $65 million in grants for local parks to apply for.
“We hope to get the most out of every dollar we can,” admits Olson.
Grand Traverse County Conservation District Conservation Team Coordinator Steve Largent hopes for big investment things. He says he hopes some of that money finds its way to northwest Michigan.
“We’re hopeful that some of that money will trickle down,” Largent says.
He says the investment would allow the conservation district to build a bridge where the Sabin Dam once stood.
“When Sabin Dam was removed in 2018 it served a bridge over the river. The dam and power station served as an unofficial bridge that people used to get from one side of the river to the other,” Largent recalls.
Manistee County woman Susan Wilhite says she’s been taking her grandchildren to the conservation district for years. She says the investment is very exciting and will only further the adventures of families.
“Last time I came here was in September and I was with two granddaughters and we went down to the river and walked around. And to think that the two tracts of land could be connected and people could access both,” says Wilhite.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says the money won’t take care of everything, but will catch up with the parks.
“Well, it’s the biggest investment ever. There were years in the past there were bond issues and things like that that were also big. But it’s on a order of magnitude that has never been greater,” says Olson.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer says that for every dollar invested in parks, tourism returns four dollars. And in northwest Michigan, where tourists come from all over to visit the parks, the investment is huge for these communities. Largent says the investment will not only help the parks, but also the people who visit them.
“As this area develops, it’s nice to be able to preserve some of these natural areas for people who visit here or come here to enjoy them,” says Largent. “But we have to take care of them, we have to make sure they are safe and durable. It will really help this effort.