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Success Story: State Recreation Passports

Nov 22, 2017

Think about it, you’re never more than 30-miles from a state park or trail in Michigan.  We’re a big state, so that’s a testament to the importance of having access to outdoor recreation opportunities for our residents. 

Considering that the 30-mile distance doesn’t even take into consideration the plethora of beautiful county, city, and federal parks, it shows that we love our outdoor adventures in Michigan.

Growing up in West Michigan, we traversed most parts of the state during the summer months.  While we camped occasionally, the sandy beaches and well-kept nature of PJ Hoffmaster, Grand Haven, Holland, and Ludington State Parks are what I fondly remember.

Never did I think that the gems of our state would fall into disrepair.  Around 2004, the funding for state parks dropped significantly – hit hardest when the legislature diverted maintenance and upgrades funds to other parts of the state budget.  That happened around the same time that park usership was dropping, causing state park vehicle parking fees and camper fees to plummet.  State parks were suffering.  Residents, the tourism industry, and local officials realized that a new funding source was needed or they would face dire options like having to close or sell off parks. 

In 2010, a legislative funding proposal was developed – changing the annual state park pass from a $24 impossible to remove window sticker, which residents would pick up as they entered the park, to an optional State Park Recreation Passport that residents could easily obtain upon renewing their annual vehicle license plate.  The new passport, which is good for a full year from the month that it’s issued, is denoted on the vehicle’s license plate tab.  Initially the cost was $10 annually for resident’s vehicles ($11 for 2017) and $5 annually for resident’s motorcycles.  Fully implemented in April 2010, the program was an immediate hit.

The concept provided stability and increased funding for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), as well as a more efficient and cost-effective program for residents.  Sales of the passes and revenue rose from $13.2 million in revenue in 2005 to $27.6 million in revenue in 2016 and a participation rate of 31.9%.  The influx of capital was timely and utilized immediately.  On their website, the DNR touts that the money from the Recreation Passport goes right back into maintaining and improving the resources by helping to fund:

  • State parks and recreation areas, state forest campgrounds, trails and boat launches
  • Local park improvements via Recreation Passport Grants
  • Historic sites within state parks
  • Outdoor recreation facilities

While there are many priorities for policymakers to consider, maintaining and protecting our state’s natural resources is critical.  The State Park Recreation Passport has proven a success and provides easy access to over 100 state parks, hundreds of miles of trails, public boat launches, and campgrounds.  If you have other ideas on how the program could be enhanced, please share!

For more information, please visit the Department of Natural Resources’ Recreation Passport website, by clicking here.

Michigan Legislative Consultants is a bipartisan lobbying firm based in Lansing, Michigan. Our team of lobbyists and procurement specialists provide a wide range of services for some of the most respected companies in America. For more on MLC, visit www.mlcmi.com or connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.