By Bob Wilson
Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance is the statewide voice for non-motorized trail users, building trails to connect people and communities for a stronger Michigan.
As a 501 ©3 nonprofit organization, Michigan Trails advocates, promotes and enables trail work all over Michigan with a focus on maintaining Michigan’s national leadership role in both land and water trails.
At the heart of our work is providing people with these “connection corridors” to get outside and get to know their neighbors. Trails are literally America’s new front porch, and they bring people together to explore our natural, historical and cultural resources.
We are a part of a large conservation, business and local government coalition working for passage of an expanded Recreation Passport program to model our state program after what the State Park Citizens’ Advisory Committee recommended over 10 years ago, when the original program was first discussed by the legislature.
We knew then, and emphasize now, that for an annual $11 fee, Michigan residents receive unlimited access to all 103 state parks, recreation areas and boating access sites, while helping to fund hundreds of local parks and trails.
We support the recommendation of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee to build the Passport program after Montana’s successful program that is an “opt-out” rather than our current “opt-in” approach. We believe that after 10 years of the public being familiar with the incredible value of the Recreation Passport, it is prudent to return to the original model envisioned by the legislature.
We feel the citizens of this state are fully aware of the choice that can be made to support the program. We also understand that current law allows the Secretary of State up to $1 million a year to help administer the program. These are funds that can be used to help people understand the option to purchase a Recreation Passport is clearly that — a voluntary election to check a box if you do not want to purchase a passport.
That’s why we support House Bills 4486 and 4775 sponsored by Rep. Gary Howell and HB 4776 sponsored by Rep. Rebekah Warren.
These bills also propose an increase from 10 to 15 percent in the amount of the Recreation Passport revenue going to local recreation grant programs that fund local trails and parks. Michigan Trails strongly supports this increase, as recent state and local surveys have clearly proven local trails and parks to be the number one recreational need in the state.
With Michigan being the leading trail state in the country, more and more people are using local trails and parks to connect with nature and each other.
With the additional funds generated by this legislation, we will see an enhancement and expansion of our trails and parks to meet the recreational needs of our citizens.
About the author: Bob Wilson is the executive director of Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance.
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