First convened a year ago, Governor Snyder’s “Blue Ribbon” panel for Michigan State Parks and Outdoor Recreation has completed the final draft of its report, The Future of Michigan’s Parks and Outdoor Recreation: A Report to Governor Rick Snyder (click here for full report: Parks Panel Final 10-4-12) . The original Executive Order included the following committee charge:
•Identifying the role of state parks and importance of outdoor recreation areas
•Providing a vision for the future of state parks
•Recommending a strategy for the expansion and proper allocation of expected resources in order to meet the new vision of state parks
•Proposing a vision and a strategy for future consideration aimed at creating stronger linkages between the state parks system and county and local parks to maximize use and cost efficiencies
In a time when there is no shortage of advisory committees, ad hoc commissions, and task forces, this initiative has produced a quality report. If embraced by the Governor and State leadership, the report has the potential to serve as an effective bridge between the parks and outdoor recreational system which has evolved over time into the collection which currently exists: one which is a highly integrated system of places and outdoor opportunities.
Although the report maintains its charge with a heavy emphasis on how the seven recommendations and nineteen complimentary recommendations can help enhance the State’s economy, its content never loses sight of the role our parks and outdoor recreation has historically played in enhancing quality of life and rekindling of the human spirit.
The timing of this report really couldn’t be better. It involves many public policy issues which have been discussed here and elsewhere, including public land and its use, recreational economics and tourism, building recreational-use partnerships and the increased opportunity for integrated technology.
One recommendation which will likely test the commitment to the committee’s report, is the opt out versus opt in recommendation regarding the Recreation Passport program. Within the supporting text for Recommendation #2 it is stated, “The state should make the Recreation Passport Program “Opt-out” and also pursue revenue bonding authority, similar to that exercised by the Mackinac Island State Park Commission, to address the backlog and ongoing priority maintenance and improvement needs for outdoor recreation facilities.”
The seven principle recommendations contained in the report follow:
- Identify and protect important natural, cultural, historic, and prehistoric resources for the enjoyment and education of Michigan’s residents and visitors, and expand efforts to engender stewardship of those resources.
- Diversify funding and use new criteria to target investments toward achieving the outcomes articulated in this report.
- Make the development of statewide and regional systems of connected trail networks one of the state’s highest priorities for outdoor recreation investment over the next ten years.
- Encourage greater connections between communities and their recreational assets to strengthen regional identities.
- Use parks and recreation areas as a key tool for revitalizing Michigan’s core urban areas by creating four to five Signature Parks and integrating green infrastructure into Michigan’s urban redesign and redevelopment efforts.
- Integrate tourism and economic development marketing in order to fully leverage the economic and social benefits that parks and outdoor recreation resources can provide.
- Prioritize investment in the safety and maintenance of, and access to, parks and recreation spaces.
Let’s hope that this document does not turn into yet another slick, glossy publication which in another year or two assumes its place on a shelf next to the dozens of other similar efforts whose recommendations never survived the all too common, “You can’t do that,” response from those who don’t do well with change.