LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer today signed legislation creating more opportunities for quality outdoor recreation by authorizing $26 million in Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grants.
“Creating more avenues for people to connect with Michigan’s beautiful outdoor spaces encompasses what Pure Michigan means. Investing in Michigan’s beautiful outdoor spaces can help economic growth while providing a physical and mental health boost to Michiganders,” said Gov. Whitmer. “Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund support is critical to opening up more opportunities for people of all ages and abilities.”
House Bill 4244, sponsored by Rep. Phil Green, approves funding for 64 recreation development projects and land purchases recommended by the board. It is now Public Act 12 of 2019.
The Trust Fund board recommends funding to both state and local agencies for development projects and land acquisitions that will increase the quality and quantity of public outdoor recreation opportunities. This round of grant funding reflects continued support of:
- Trail systems, specifically those – like the Iron Belle Trail – with broad regional and statewide impact.
- Acquisitions of high-quality, unique natural resources including scenic river frontage, geologic features, wildlife habitat and Great Lake access.
- An extensive range of development projects that expand opportunities across Michigan for camping, fishing, biking, hiking and snowmobiling.
This year the board recommended $18.6 million in acquisition grants and nearly $7.4 million in recreation development grants. Of the $18.6 million recommended to fund acquisition projects, $12 million would be awarded to local units of government, while the remaining $6.6 million would be awarded to the Department of Natural Resources to support diverse projects including:
- The acquisition of an improved riverfront trail way along the Detroit River in Wayne County. This critical expansion – the West Riverfront Park Trail Connection – will link the east and west portions of the riverfront into the future Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park. This collaborative project includes funding from the Department of Transportation and the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation.
- A new Tahquamenon River access site, providing even more water-based recreation opportunities at this popular eastern Upper Peninsula destination.
- In the northern Lower Peninsula’s Presque Isle County, the acquisition of roughly 80 acres of primarily upland aspen forest, 1,680 feet of Little Ocqueoc River corridor, 12 acres of wetlands and excellent winter deeryard and habitat for a variety of wildlife. The property, which will be part of the state forest system, will consolidate state land management in this area, will be managed for timber and wildlife and fisheries habitat, and will offer prime natural resources-based recreation opportunities including hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, camping, snowmobiling and wildlife watching.
Of the $7.4 million recommended to fund development grants, $6.8 million would support 30 local government projects and $540,000 would support four DNR projects.
Collectively, the $26 million of Trust Fund grants is matched with nearly $16 million of additional funding for a total of $41.9 million being invested in land acquisition and development projects across the state.
“I am proud that this legislation authorizing Trust Fund grants enjoyed such strong, bipartisan support throughout the Legislature,” said DNR Director Dan Eichinger. “This action sends the message that Michigan places a high value on quality, outdoor recreation opportunities, and that we’re committed to protecting our beautiful, natural spaces for everyone’s use and enjoyment.”
The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund is a restricted fund that was established in 1976 to provide funding for public acquisition of land for resource protection and outdoor recreation, as well as for public outdoor recreation development projects. It is funded through interest earned on funds derived from the development of publicly owned minerals, primarily oil and gas, and can only be used for public outdoor recreation. Over the past 40 years, the Trust Fund has granted more than $1 billion to local units of government and the DNR to develop and improve public outdoor recreation opportunities in Michigan.
The Trust Fund board’s recommendations go to the Michigan Legislature for review as part of the appropriation process. The Legislature then forwards a bill to the governor for her approval.