Saturday, April 10, 2010
Michigan's Recreation Passport
The State of Michigan is betting the future of its state parks on the willingness of its residents to fork out $10 a year.
The $10 will buy each resident a Recreation Passport, and the program is Michigan's solution for funding our favorite recreation destinations. It begins October 1, 2010.
Instead of spending $24 for an annual motor vehicle permit or boating access permit, Michigan residents will now be asked to support the Recreation Passport with an optional $10 fee when renewing their vehicle registration with the Secretary of State. The license plate renewal sticker received from the Secretary of State will have a designation that indicates the Recreation Passport payment. If an individual purchases their Recreation Passport fee at the park, the park will provide an identifying sticker.
Camping fees will remain the same. Out of state visitors will still pay the $8 daily, or $29 annual fee for park and/or boating access site entrance. Michigan residents entering a park without the Recreation Passport designation will result in paying a Recreation Passport fee of up to $20 or could result in a $100 fine.
Officials are counting on residents opting to pay the $10, even if many of those same people will never take advantage of the benefits the Recreation Passport provides.
The alternative is unthinkable.
Since 2004, Michigan State Parks and Recreation Areas have received no state tax support and are primarily funded through user fees. The Recreation Passport legislation was created to prevent drastic cuts to park and forest programs.
For it to work, though, it will take the support of millions of residents.
The current system brings in $11 million.
But if just 25 percent of residents pay the $10 Recreation Passport, $18 million is generated. If there's 50 percent participation, $36 million is generated; $55 million for 75 percent participation and $72 million if every resident buys the Recreation Passport.
Over the past four years the state park budget has been reduced by $2.8 million each year. Permanent staffing of state parks has diminished nearly 15% since 2000 and Michigan is recognized nationally as operating one of the most efficient state park systems in the country.
Michigan has 98 state parks and recreation areas and maintains over 1,000 boating access sites. The park system is one of the largest in the nation, but, is tied for dead last in public funding support. The park system has been unable to keep up with infrastructure repairs and replacements and it is only a matter of time before the failure of a critical support system in a state park puts that park out of business.
The revenue generated by the Recreation Passport program will be split between state parks, state recreation areas, state forest campgrounds, state boating access sites, state non–motorized trails and pathways, and local parks for operation and infrastructure improvements and for cultural and historic resource protection at state parks. Officials say it will provide a stable funding source for many of Michigan's outdoor recreation facilities, allowing them to be maintained and operated for the enjoyment of current and future generations.
We campers will, of course, buy the Recreation Passport. But, please encourage your friends and family to do likewise. The future of our state parks depend on it.
Posted by Gr8LakesCamper at 8:45 PM