Parks and Wrecks

What the next governor should do to bolster Michigan's state parks

While recently walking along the beach at the Traverse City State Park, I was appalled at how dirty the beach was. Among the litter and discarded cigarette buts it was difficult to find clean sand to sit on and enjoy the view of the bay. Perhaps part of the problem is there were no trash receptacles to be found anywhere in the area. What has happened to our state parks? The Lansing political class will claim it is a "lack of funding." In my observation, having worked in senior state park management positions in three different states - including a short stint as chief of Michigan State Parks - limited funds to manage state parks is a fact of life. Michigan doesn't need more funds for state parks, just better management of them.

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!

Michigan lags many other states when it comes to innovative ways for managing state parks to generate revenues and cut operating costs. A new governor in Michigan would be wise to direct state park management to implement the following changes to how state parks are managed:

  • Contract to the private sector most custodial and law enforcement services.
  • Seek to bid out concessions such as food and lodging that will generate revenue.
  • Sell state parks that are not essential in providing recreational opportunities.

If innovative approaches are not made in how state parks are managed, both residents and visitors to the system can expect a continual decline in the maintenance and protection of the cherished natural resources that are abundant in Michigan state parks.