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Whitmer proposes using $150 million in federal relief funds for local parks, trails

Ottawa Sands
Ottawa County Parks & Recreation

Governor Gretchen Whitmer Tuesday proposed spending $150 million in federal relief money on locally owned parks and trails. State officials say that’s more than three times the total amount of grant money offered to community parks in an average year.

In a press release, Whitmer said, “Over the last five years, the average of development grant applications to the DNR for three primary grant programs – the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, Recreation Passport Grants and Land and Water Conservation Fund – has approached $40 million annually. Nearly $20 million of those annual requests could not be met because of lack of available funding.”

The new proposal is in addition to the $250 million that Whitmer wants to use from the federal American Rescue Plan on parks and trails that the state manages.

Local parks and recreation directors praised the proposal in Grand Haven.

They say residents who flocked to parks and natural spaces during the lockdowns of the pandemic recognize these spaces are a necessity, not a luxury.

“As residents recognized during the pandemic when they flocked to our parks, natural spaces should not be considered a luxury, but a necessity for our wellbeing,” Jason Shamblin, director of Ottawa County Parks and Recreation, said in a press release. “The cost of acquiring natural spaces; designing, permitting, and building park infrastructure; and maintaining these facilities is consistently increasing."

The proposal needs to go through the legislative process.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.