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Gov. Whitmer signs bipartisan bill investing in outdoor recreation

Photo courtesy: Michigan DNR.
Photo courtesy: Michigan DNR.(WLUC)
Published: May. 6, 2021 at 2:41 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Thursday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed House Bill (HB) 4469, which appropriates $37.8 million in Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grants that will support 76 recreation projects and land purchases throughout Michigan. The purchases were recommended by the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board in December.

“The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund supports quality outdoor recreation, giving Michiganders the ability to safely enjoy the outdoors and boosting local economies,” said Governor Whitmer. “This funding is crucial to helping communities utilize their natural resources and make Michigan’s public spaces more accessible and attractive to residents and visitors. I am proud to sign this piece of bipartisan legislation into law and support Michigan’s recreational resources and economy.”

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund was established to provide funding for public acquisition of lands for resource conservation and outdoor recreation, as well as for public outdoor recreation development projects. Established in 1976, the Trust Fund is paid for through interest earned on funds generated from the development of publicly owned minerals.

Over the past 45 years, the Trust Fund has granted more than $1.2 billion to the state and local governments to develop and improve recreation opportunities in Michigan. Now, the Trust Fund board has recommended funding to both state and local agencies for land and projects that will increase the quality and quantity of public outdoor recreation opportunities.

This round of grant funding includes continued support of trail systems, acquiring of unique natural resources, and development projects for camping, fishing, biking, hiking and snowmobiling.

The Trust Fund board has recommended nearly $27.3 million for acquisition grants and $10.5 million for development grants this year. In all:

  • 26 acquisition grants were awarded to local units of government for a total of $20.8 million, while four acquisition grants went to the Department of Natural Resources for projects totaling nearly $6.5 million.
  • The Trust Fund board also recommended $9.3 million in 42 development grants to local units of government, while four DNR projects garnered $1.2 million.
  • The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund board considered 136 applications seeking more than $60 million in funding. In a competitive process, all applications were carefully evaluated based on scoring criteria approved by the board.

Dan Eichinger, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, said Trust Fund support is especially meaningful right now.

“Appreciation for Michigan’s outdoor spaces and recreation opportunities has always been strong, but this past year was an important reminder of how valuable these resources are to our residents,” said Eichinger, who also serves as a member of the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board. “People increasingly used and relied on these spaces to hike, bike, camp, hunt, fish and explore, or to share the outdoors with their kids, and many of these opportunities were fully or partially funded by Trust Fund grants.”

The governor signed the bill on Discovery Pier at Greilickville Harbor Park in Elmwood Charter Township. The township, one of more than 70 Trust Fund grantees this year, will receive $300,000 to further the recreation-based development of the pier area around the old coal dock.

“I think this is a great example of how a local municipality, a nonprofit and the state can work together to create a special place,” said Jeffrey Shaw, Elmwood Township supervisor. “We’re happy to have the Discovery Pier here in Elmwood Township and we look forward to working together for years to come.”

A list of the final recommendations made by the Trust Fund board is available at Michigan.gov/MNRTF.

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