Permit renewal program to spark more park revenue

By Thea Hassan, Great Lakes Echo

Michigan residents renewing their car registration can now simply check “yes” for an annual unlimited pass for state parks and boat launches.

Michigan is only the second state to develop this type of park payment plan. Montana is the other. Since the program began last October, almost 20 percent of renewing drivers chose to participate. The new program replaces the previous $24 annual passes sold at park offices.

The new Recreation Passport allows stir-crazy residents to visit parks and boat launches statewide for $10 a year. The pass can be purchased during motor vehicle registration renewal or at a park office.

Passport sales have already exceeded the break even point of replacing the old system with 17 percent of drivers opting in to the program, with the target goal of 25 percent of total Michigan drivers by the end of the fiscal year in September. Due to the decreased cost and increased ease of purchasing the pass, the pass offers “high value at low cost,” according to Ron Olson, chief of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Recreation Division.

Michigan’s 98 state parks  face a $300 million deficit for needed repairs. The revenue gained from the program will go for fixing sewer systems and bathrooms, park operations and maintenance, local grants and forest recreation, according to Olson.

Passport holders will also reap discounts at over 200 businesses  participating in the Passport Perks program. Such businesses include hotels, ice cream shops and sporting goods stores.

For information:

DNRERecreation Passport

Participating Businesses in Perks Program

© 2011, Great Lakes Echo, Michigan State University Knight Center for Environmental Journalism.

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