Update: New Law Helps Us Enjoy and Support Michigan Parks

We have to get excited when the Michigan legislature passes a law that provides benefits for residents and helps the state’s budget too. The new funding plan, signed into law last Wednesday, for Michigan parks and recreation seems to fall into that elusive win-win category of legislation. The “Recreation Passport” system will increase the accessibility and affordability of our state parks and, at the same time, provide new financial support for our underfunded parks and recreation systems.

The new law simplifies the funding system for parks and recreation by replacing current daily entry fees and annual admission fees. Residents will instead have the option of purchasing a $10 annual Recreation Passport which grants unlimited access to 98 state parks and recreation areas and 66 boating access sites. Passport holders will be recognized by a “P” sticker on their license plate. The “P” sticker will be available for purchase when Michiganders renew their license plates.

The Recreational Passport program goes into effect in October 2010 and those who opt to purchase a passport will be saving more than 60% off of the previous state parks annual admission fee of $24.

Government officials hope that the convenience and low price of a recreational passport will entice residents to buy into the program and support the parks.

Since 2004 the DNRE’s Recreation Division has been operating without taxpayer support and depending mainly on user fees. Infrastructure development along with park programs and services are drastically underfunded. Officials hope the majority of Michiganders, or about 65% of us, buy a passport. That many passports would mean about $40 million in essential revenue for the parks.

The Recreation Passport looks to involve more Michigan residents in the process of preserving and protecting our parks. The more residents that are enticed to pay for the passport, the more revenue the parks bring in. Just as important, though, the more people who will be able to enjoy and learn the beauty of the Michigan parks system. Now that is what we call a win-win.

For more information, please visit www.michigan.gov/recreationpassport