Michigan Considers New State Park Entry Pay Plan
The state of Michigan would scrap state park entrance fees in favor of a voluntary $10 add-on to the annual vehicle registration charge under a two-bill package passed by the Senate today (Nov. 12).
The new parks passport would replace the $24 annual charge and $6 daily fee for Michigan residents. The $29 annual entrance permit for out-of-state motorists would remain in place, according to The Detroit Free Press.
The Senate voted 25-12 to pass the measures and send them to the House, where sponsors say it stands a strong chance of passing.
"This (legislation) allows us to maintain our strong commitment to our irreplaceable natural resources," said Sen. Patty Birkholz, R-Saugatuck, sponsor of the bills. "You're helping to reform operation of state parks in our state and maintaining a health, vibrant parks system for another 90 years."
Advocates of the passport are hoping it will generate more money to maintain and upgrade the cash-strapped parks system.
A Senate Fiscal Agency review says at least 17% of car registration applicants would have to check the "yes" box and pay the $10 fee ($5 for motorcycles) to generate at least the $11.7 million a year the current fees raise. If one-quarter of registrants pay the fee, the state would reap an additional $5.9 million; if 50% participate, the net new revenue would be $24 million more; and if 75% opt in the passport would yield an additional $42 million. There's no way to determine what the participation rate will be, the analysis says.
There will be no more windshield stickers for parks admission for Michigan residents. Those who pay the parks fee would have a special designation on their license plate. The Department of Natural Resources will do spot checks to make sure visitors to the parks have paid the fee. Those who use the parks without paying will receive a letter warning them that a second violation will result in a fine of up to $100.
Some of the heavy-use parks and those near state borders that draw many out-of-state visitors will continue to have staffed booths to sell the passports to residents and nonresidents, and check permits.
The idea is opposed by the road building industry and Michigan Chamber of Commerce officials because they want to ensure all transportation fees continue to go to provide revenue for roads and bridges. The plan has the support of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs and other environmental groups because it would provide a boost to revenue for the state park system.
Lt. Gov. John Cherry said today he preferred an earlier version of the legislation that would have assessed the $10 registration fee on all applicants unless they opted out.
"It's lost a lot of its value," Cherry said. "It can't raise the money other states (with a similar fee) have raised."
Sen. Gerald VanWoerkom, R-Muskegon, said he doesn't support the parks finance plan because: "I don't believe this fee is an appropriate way of funding our parks. I believe the users should pay for that recreational opportunity."