There's no doubt about it, the northwestern part of the Upper Peninsula is simply loaded with state recreation facilities.
With state parks, scenic sites, boat launches, harbors, state forest campgrounds and more, the four-county area of Keweenaw, Houghton, Baraga and Ontonagon counties is home to more than three dozen places to enjoy the best of Michigan's great outdoors.
The Department of Natural Resources' Parks and Recreation Division is primarily responsible for providing and managing these facilities, with a budget based almost entirely on user fees (read: no general fund tax dollars). The traditional way of funding the parks was to require motor vehicle permits for park entrance, which ran $24 per year.
In 2010, the general public was given a new and less expensive way to support outdoor recreation opportunities in their neck of the woods and across the state: The Recreation Passport.
Available for only $10 as part of your annual vehicle registration, the Recreation Passport provides access not only to all of Michigan's state parks, recreation areas, and boat launches, but also to our state forest campgrounds and nonmotorized trails. Passport holders can also take advantage of the Passport Perks discount program, offered at nearly 1,000 businesses statewide on everything from sporting goods to oil changes and pizza delivery.
To be frank, many people have asked us why or how the Department could possibly think that lowering the price of annual entrance fees would provide an increase in funding for state parks and recreation management.
The answer is relatively simple: With the lower cost, it's conceivable that more people will purchase the Passport than who purchased the old motor vehicle permits. Throw in the convenience of wrapping it into your annual stop at the Secretary of State to pay your registration, plus the incentive of the Passport Perks discount program, and it's likely that more people will get the Passport not only to access state parks and campgrounds, but to save some money as well.
There is one additional aspect to the Recreation Passport that holds enormous potential to directly benefit your local community. A portion of revenue raised by Recreation Passport sales is set aside for grants that support community recreation programs.
In 2011, the DNR awarded nearly $600,000 in Recreation Passport grant money to communities across the state, including one major grant right here in Houghton County: A $30,000 check was presented to Portage Township for facility upgrades at Hurontown Recreation Area.
So whether you use the state's recreation facilities for camping, picnicking, boating, hiking, biking, birding or countless other activities, or you simply want quality community playgrounds and recreation programs for your kids or grandkids, paying $10 for the Recreation Passport is a means to accomplishing both ends.
For more information about the Recreation Passport, check out the DNR's website at michigan.gov/recreationpassport. We are also using social media to spread the word about the Recreation Passport's benefits, including the Passport Perks program. Follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/midnr and on Twitter at twitter.com/ michiganDNR.
Debbie Munson Badini is the DNR's Upper Peninsula communications representative. Contact her at 906-226-1352 or firstname.lastname@example.org.