On June 10, 2021—standing in the shadow of the Mackinac Bridge from Straits State Park in St. Ignace—Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced her plan to revitalize the local tourism economy by investing $250 million in restoring and renovating the state’s 103 parks.
Her strategy is that these critical investments in state parks and trails will make public spaces across Michigan more attractive destinations for tourism, and will 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 to be used for regenerative new investments in parks and trails and to address the backlog of park infrastructure projects, which will help revitalize Michigan businesses and communities.
“Tourism is vital to Michigan’s economy and to our overall economic health, and COVID disproportionately harmed our tourism and hospitality sectors,” said 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,” she added.
Tourism to Michigan parks generates value for surrounding communities, creates jobs, and sustains small businesses.
On average, every $1 invested in land restoration and 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 has some of the best state parks in the country that support our outdoor way of life and contribute to our overall economy,” said Bill Rustem, former advisor to Governors Snyder and Milliken. “Governor Whitmer’s proposal will help to keep our state parks in pristine condition, while supporting tens of thousands of jobs in communities across the state.”
As people found creative ways to socially distance during the pandemic, 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.
“As the number of visitors to Michigan’s 103 state parks has increased dramatically over the past couple of years, we’ve seen greater demands our park and trail infrastructure,” said Dan Eichinger, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “The funding announced by the Governor today will give our state parks a badly needed boost, while also aiding the state’s recovery through our natural resources and outdoor recreation tourism.”
The governor’s proposal would be a historic investment that would modernize parks and trails, improve access, and make them more resilient for generations to come. Funding will be used for projects that include upgrading water and sanitary systems, restoring historic structures, and installing and improving vital park infrastructure.
“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.”
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 recommendation to invest in the safety and maintenance of, and access to, parks and recreation spaces. The panel believed implementing the recommendations would position Michigan to meet the needs of its citizens, visitors and communities throughout the 21st century.
“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,” he concluded.
This new investment announced by Gov. Whitmer will make great gains toward Michigan realizing the vision of the state parks and outdoor recreation panel.