ST. IGNACE, Mich. (WLUC) – Thursday afternoon, Governor Gretchen Whitmer visited Straits State Park in St. Ignace. At the campground, she proposed a plan to spend $250 million in federal COVID-19 relief on Michigan’s state parks.
“Unfortunately over the last decade, we haven’t invested in our parks and public spaces like we should,” Whitmer said. “Because of the disinvestment, our state parks have had a $264 million backlog of maintenance requests.”
The governor says needed maintenance includes modernizing water and sanitary systems, upgrading infrastructure, improving access, and preserving structures that are part of Michigan’s history. She says those projects will also help to boost the state’s economy.
“Tourism to these parks generates value for our surrounding communities, creating jobs and sustaining small businesses,” said Whitmer. “On average, every dollar we invest in land conservation leads to four dollars in economic benefit.”
“People don’t just visit a park,” said Michigan Department of Natural Resources director Dan Eichinger. “They eat in our restaurants, they stop and spend money in our stores and other businesses, and with the way that the nature of work has changed, many of them are buying homes and relocating to these communities.”
Whitmer says she is hopeful for bipartisan support of the parks proposal. However, Senate republicans introduced a plan earlier this week that would dedicate $1.5 billion in federal funds to repair Michigan bridges in severe condition.
State Senator Ed McBroom says both proposals are working toward the goal of sustaining and improving Michigan’s resources.
“Whether it’s the parks, bridges, roads, harbors, these are things that will make a long-term impact,” said McBroom.
When asked if she would support the $1.5 billion spending on bridge repairs, Whitmer said, “We are going to have to talk about what that infrastructure spending looks like. Of course, anytime someone’s talking about roads and bridges, they’re speaking my language, so I feel very confident that we’re going to be able to find some common ground on a lot of these fronts.”
Whitmer says state parks benefit guests physically, emotionally, and mentally. She believes they are an invaluable resource to Michigan residents in 2021 and beyond.
“After a pandemic that exacerbated and exposed so many underlying issues and put a strain on our mental health and physical wellbeing, we need our parks more than ever,” she said. “That’s why right now is the time to make this historic investment.”
Watch Governor Whitmer’s full press conference here.
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