Michigan 'Passport' Helps Spare 23 Campground Closures
The 23 Michigan state forest campgrounds which were being considered for closure will be spared, due in part to the success of the state’s “Recreation Passport” program, the Petoskey News-Review reported.
Nine months in, the program has met its “break-even point” of $11 million in revenue, according to Harold Herta, resource management chief for the Parks & Recreation division of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). At that revenue mark, the Recreation Passport program has surpassed the annual sticker/day pass program it replaced.
Motorists can opt-in with their annual license plate renewal, paying an extra $10 for year-round access to Michigan’s state parks. Herta said participation is at 22% and is going up every month as more people visit, or plan on visiting, state parks. In the old system, annual stickers were $24, with day passes costing $6.
Revenue is being directed into reserved funds to pay for park infrastructure, fund local recreation grants and forest recreation — including helping pay for operations of Michigan’s state forest campgrounds. Because of this extra revenue, combined with some shifting of funds by the state legislature, the 23 state forest campgrounds that were facing closure this year will be kept open.
“We’re projecting we will have enough money to cover their expenses,” Herta said, adding the Recreation Passport program is succeeding in benefiting “more than just state parks.”
Closures had been anticipated because the Forest Recreation budget has seen a 63% drop in the past three years and experienced a $314,000 drop in funding when it was severed from the General Fund.
State forest campgrounds are not state parks. They have water pumps and pit toilets, while state parks have showers, water and electric hookups and restrooms.