Gov. Whitmer helps DNR cut ribbon on Michigan state parks’ next 100 years

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Governor announces Michigan’s new Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry

With the Michigan state parks centennial celebration ramping up and the Memorial Day holiday weekend – the unofficial kickoff to Michigan’s camping season – just around the corner, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer today joined the DNR at Grand Haven State Park to highlight a century of parks growth and ceremonially “cut the ribbon” on strategic investments and infrastructure improvements geared to provide the best visitor experiences for the next 100 years.

Gov. Whitmer, DNR Director Dan Eichinger and DNR Parks and Recreation Chief Ron Olson gathered with Grand Haven State Park staff and supporters near the park’s beach house area to share their thoughts on the state parks system’s remarkable history, the scope of the centennial celebration and a look at future development.

“It’s so great to be able to celebrate a century of Michigan’s award-winning state parks,” said Whitmer. “This is what Pure Michigan is all about, opening up our great outdoor spaces so people from all over the world can enjoy our Great Lakes, inland lakes, forests, and trails. I’m excited to cut the ribbon on the next century of outdoor recreation here in Michigan, and I’m proud to partner with the DNR to continue preserving our state parks.”

Introducing the Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry

Building on that commitment to better, broader recreation opportunities for more Michigan residents and visitors, Whitmer took the opportunity to announce the new Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry, which will be housed within the DNR under a partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry will work in partnership with MEDC and the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Council to expand Michigan’s strong outdoor recreation economy and build greater awareness about the importance and value of the businesses, both large and small, that make up the industry.

“Our state parks serve as both outdoor recreation destinations and as a key driver of Michigan’s tourism industry,” Whitmer said. “I think it is fitting to announce this new office at an event that celebrates the incredible history, evolution and contributions of Michigan’s state parks system.”

Outdoor recreation generates more than $26 billion a year in consumer spending, 232,000 direct jobs, $7.5 billion in wages and salaries, and $2.1 billion in state and local tax revenue. The Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry will work to find more opportunities for collaboration around that economic strength in order to elevate outdoor recreation activities and opportunities across the state. Learn more about the office at Michigan.gov/MI-OutdoorRec.

Showcasing infrastructure investment, greater accessibility in state parks

Just prior to the event’s start, Gov. Whitmer and Director Eichinger spent time talking with and passing out s’mores kits to dozens of youth from the Pursuing a Dream Foundation who, earlier in the day, had enjoyed a Get Hooked fishing program at the park. Some of those children helped the governor with the ribbon-cutting. The foundation is a unique West Michigan organization that empowers children, teens and adults with disabilities to enjoy the outdoors in a setting that breaks down barriers.

Eichinger said Grand Haven’s accessibility enhancements are just one example of the state park’s commitment to visitor-focused investment that helps deliver a Pure Michigan outdoor experience to every visitor.

“With more than $6 million invested in accessible playground enhancements, new LEED-compliant campground restroom and shower facilities, a complete replacement of the channel restroom building, a renovated park entrance and the completion of beach parking resurfacing that has increased parking capacity by more than 100 additional spaces, Grand Haven is a testament to the future of Michigan state parks.”

During this centennial year, Eichinger said the DNR is planning for more than $18 million in infrastructure investments that will target several areas, including electrical upgrades, sewer and drain field replacement, trail maintenance and the addition of full hook-up campsites.

Chief Olson, who has led DNR Parks and Recreation since 2005, reflected on the progress and opportunities the state parks system has enjoyed since that inaugural year.

“Digging into the history of our state parks – how they came to be, how visitor numbers have soared – really drives home that the actions we take today will have a true and lasting impact on the state parks of tomorrow,” Olson said. “That’s true for us as the overseers of state parks, as well as for the millions of visitors who enjoy our parks year after year. We truly appreciate our campers’ and day-use visitors’ commitment to taking care of state parks.”

Olson also cited the support of state park friends’ groups, legislators, statewide parks and trails organizations, and the many other volunteer organizations that help with everything from trail grooming and recreation programming to conservation work and serving as campground hosts.

“Michigan state parks mean a great deal to a great many people,” he said. “Michigan state parks are where our favorite friends-and-family moments happen, where people connect with the outdoors, and where anyone can work on restoring their physical and spiritual health. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the next hundred years.”

In addition to the aforementioned infrastructure investments, Olson said that during the state parks centennial year, he and his staff will focus on:

  • Ensuring that accessibility is an integral part of all new or updated facilities in state parks, from beach access and campsites to boat launches and piers.
  • Continuing the department’s commitment to natural resources protection, including the volunteer park stewardship program that last year contributed 88,000 volunteer work hours on important projects including native seed collection and invasive species removal.
  • Completing restoration projects – including roof replacement, engineering studies and remediation efforts – on some of the more than 800 archaeological sites and nearly 400 historical structures under the protection of the state parks system.

Get the latest information about this year’s state parks centennial celebration – including special events and programs, merchandise and keepsakes, celebratory videos and volunteer and donation opportunities – at Michigan.gov/StateParks100. Anyone sharing their centennial stories and posts is encouraged to keep the conversation going with the hashtag #MiStateParks100.

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