Michigan’s governor signed House Bill 4469 on Thursday, authorizing Natural Resources Trust Fund spending for another year.
While a man ended up arrested after he heckled Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and accosted and spat at a local television reporter, the bill itself was non-controversial. It’s an annual, usually bipartisan ritual to spend the interest made on a Michigan State Parks Endowment Fund that collects bonuses, rentals, delayed rentals, and royalties for non-renewable resources, like oil and gas, extracted on state land.
We’re not surprised Whitmer chose Traverse City to sign it; our region is a Pure Michigan prime example of both of the bill’s functions — purchasing land for parks and investing in existing parks and facilities. She signed it at Greilickville’s Discovery Pier, the site of a $300,000 appropriation to help transform an old coal dock into a recreation destination, with a universally accessible kayak-launch, restrooms, parking and gardens.
The $39 million bill also points $569,200 at buying 515 acres on Bass and Saunders lakes; $718,900 to expand Benzie County’s Railroad Point Natural Area by 9 acres, plus $300,000 each to an Elberta Pier accessibility project, redeveloping the Torch Lake boat launch and improvements at Arbutus Lake No. 5 Park. (The bill also includes $300,000 for Fishpass, currently the focus of a lawsuit that may put the project in front of voters).
But the funds by no means covers the projects’ hefty price tags. Matching contributions made by local governments and nonprofits — nearly $85 million this year — more than double its impact.
Traverse City knows well the importance of investing in preserving our wild spaces for public use. Taxpayers in Traverse City and Garfield Township voted twice (in 2004 and 2020) for millages to purchase Historic Barns Park, Hickory Meadows, part of the Open Space on West Grand Traverse Bay and the Hickory Forest. Our Rotary Charities organization has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations like TART Trails and area conservancies. Nearly every year-round resident reaps the benefits of our abundant natural resources, from the solitary splendor of skiing the VASA in the winter or in a summertime recreation tourist dollar.
“Up north” means natural beauty. But we are not naive to believe that just because it is this way now, means it always will be.
Traverse City is also an example of an area wrestling with growth — and its associated pressure on housing, land, child care, employment and services. Things change quickly.
Protecting and making our natural resources accessible to all requires all of us, as taxpayers — and as appreciators.