This November, voters in Michigan will be deciding whether or not to update and expand the Michigan Natural Resource Trust Fund (MNRTF).
The fund was created and written into the Michigan Constitution in 1976; helping cities, townships and the state buy and develop public land.
Clay Summers, executive director of the Michigan Recreation & Park Association says MNRTF helped to create a lot public spaces here in northern Michigan.
Our northern Michigan communities have certainly benefited from Trust Fund Resources.
“Whether that’s trail development, connectability, places in the downtown districts where people can gather, a lot of those projects if you really went digging you would see a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund plaque,” says Summers.
The fund is generated by revenue from oil, gas and mineral lease royalties. The proposal would provide more flexibility in distributing existing funds at no cost to the taxpayer.
Jonathan Jarosz, executive director of Heart of the Lakes, says, “Early expenditures and up until now, the trust fund has been more heavily pushed towards land acquisition, with a lesser percentage spent on what we refer to as development activities.”
Jon says the proposal would allow more funds to be distributed towards development projects, including park amenities like public bathrooms, parking lots and trailheads.
Brian Beauchamp from TART Trails says since the beginning of the pandemic, there are more people than ever enjoying the trails.
He says without the MNRTF, many of them wouldn’t be available.
“Our community has been lucky to be awarded trust fund dollars over the years and it’s gone towards not only trails and trail development, but also some of the public properties that out trails connect to,” says Beauchamp.
The proposal would also allocate additional funds for redevelopment of existing parks.
Summers says, “Many of our Michigan parks were kind of developed on the same timeline, the late 60s, early 70s, some of them are 30, 40, 50 years old; and so, these building and properties are in need of some help.
For more information about the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and the ballot proposal, check out the: Michigan Use of State and Local Park Funds Amendment (2020)