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Money spent toward Michigan parks, trails is money well spent

Albert Einstein once said, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” As we continue to work our way through the end of this pandemic, there are many Michiganders who will be venturing out into the great outdoors. Our governor recognizes that, as well as the economic impact that our state’s beauty can bring in.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday called for allotting $150 million in federal coronavirus rescue funds for Michigan’s local parks and trails, the second time she has proposed major recreation spending in less than a month, according to The Associated Press.

If approved by lawmakers, the proposal would authorize the state to disburse grants. The governor said the spending on parks and recreation would boost tourism, particularly aiding seasonal and rural economies, and help sectors disproportionately hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Right now this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make transformative investment in our outdoors spaces, and we ought to take it,” she said during a news conference at Connor Bayou Park along the Grand River near Grand Haven. It is one of roughly 4,000 local parks across the state.

The money could be used to make parks more accessible and to build playgrounds, basketball courts, pavilions and boardwalks, said Whitmer, adding that “we need our parks more than ever” post-pandemic. The funding also could improve and connect regional trail systems.

“Parks through the pandemic gave us hope, encouragement and health opportunities for all west Michigan visitors. … Our parks are busier than ever,” said Greg DeJong, an Ottawa County commissioner.

The Democratic governor last month proposed allocating $250 million of $6.5 billion in discretionary federal virus aid to state parks. She also has called for using the dollars to expand tuition-free assistance to attend community college to 22,000 additional frontline workers, to give grants to businesses to temporarily pay at least $15 an hour and to provide “hero pay” bonuses to essential workers.

We agree with DeJong — there is nothing that resets our internal battery more than getting outdoors. That simple reason is why many Michiganders choose to live here — there is a beauty that cannot be understated. Putting money toward conserving that beauty is money well spent.

— The Mining Journal, Marquette

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