Proposal One: Voters to decide cap of state public park funding


A couple strolls across the field with their baby Sept. 14 at Island Park.

Public parks across Michigan, including Island Park in Mount Pleasant, could receive their first increase in funding since 2011 in the 2020 election. 

The Use of State and Local Park Funds Amendment will appear as Proposal One on the Michigan ballot for the Nov. 3 election. A vote “yes” for the proposal would support making adjustments in how state park-related funds can be spent and remove a cap of $500 million on the Natural Resources Trust Fund.

The Natural Resources Trust Fund provides natural resource protection and outdoor recreation, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources' website. Local governments all across the state of Michigan are eligible to apply for grants for their public parks. 

The trust fund comes from a 44-year-old bill that redistributes a portion of the proceeds on Michigan oil and gas taxes back into the parks, according to the Michigan DNR website. By removing the cap, it would reallocate the funds between both local and state parks. 

Becca Maher, campaign manager at Vote Yes for MI Water, Wildlife and Parks, said the Natural Resources Trust Fund reached its cap in 2011. Currently, all park funding fed into state parks only.

“This is all about taking those royalties and continuing to use them for conservation and public land acquisition," Maher said. "It is not a tax on individuals and that is important to stress."

Maher says the Natural Resources Trust Fund works to develop resources locally all across Michigan, including trails, kayak launches, bridges and playgrounds.

Along with the removal of the cap for local park funding, Proposal One would allow an increase for park grants across the state that individual cities can apply for. The legislation for Proposal One states 25 percent of grant funding would be spent a year developing, renovating, and redeveloping recreational facilities. 

Chris Bundy, director of parks and public spaces for the city of Mount Pleasant, said Island Park has seen a large impact financially from the trust fund and this amendment would open the opportunity for additional projects.

“Overall, we received a very good amount of money from the Natural Resources Trust Fund,” Bundy said. “Our trail system would probably not even be a quarter of what it is now without that funding."

Bundy said the city of Mount Pleasant received $2.2 million since the beginning of the Natural Resources Trust Fund developed in 1974, $500,000 of which has been spent on the trail systems alone. 

Island Park is often filled with Mount Pleasant residents like Verna Holley, who has lived in the city for over 20 years. Her daughter and granddaughter often enjoy the pathways in the parks on their walks together. 

“It would be great to see more funding,” said Holley. “It’s better for local people who can’t afford to go to state parks or people who live here and can bring their kids and it doesn’t cost anything.”