Michigan: State Parks Passport System

In an earlier post I reported that the Recreation Passport was coming to the great state of Michigan.

Michigan’s new system for collecting state park fees through recreation passports is in place and entering its first summer season.

The Recreation Passport creates a new sustainable funding source for Michigan’s 98 state parks and recreation areas, 133 state forest campgrounds, nearly 1,000 miles of non-motorized trails and pathways, more than 1,000 boat launches, and local parks. It also makes accessing recreational opportunities easier and more affordable for Michigan citizens.

The Recreation Passport replaces the traditional state park and boating Motor Vehicle Permit (MVP), or “window sticker,” system formerly used at state parks, recreation areas, and boat launches.

Motorists may choose to pay a $10 fee when they renew their vehicle plate registration. This fee authorizes entry into state parks and boat launches for the usual one-year period of the registration. Camping fees remain in place.

A passport is needed to enter a park, but parks’ staff will scan cars for the passports in parking lots instead of checking for them at the gate, the Holland Sentinel reported.

Vehicle owners have some leeway during the transition. Visitors who don’t renew their plates until September, for example, won’t need a passport until that month.

Ludington State Park is like an island, nestled between Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake. Photo courtesy MI DNR

Everyone with vehicle renewals between October 2010 and April 2011 will require a recreation passport to enter a state park or recreation area.

If you don’t buy a passport with your license plate renewal this year, you can still purchase one for $10 at the state parks. Next year, however, it will cost an extra $5 to buy one at the parks.

Out-of-state visitors will pay a fee of $29 for an annual pass or $8 for a day pass.

This new system is expected to bring in much-needed revenue to the parks system.

Officials hope it will mean an extra $5 million for infrastructure and maintenance.

It is projected that 25 percent participation would generate $18,060,000 in new revenue.

As an incentive to purchase passports with license plate renewals, the state has a “Passport Perks” program with discounts at more than 200 Michigan businesses.

The Recreation Passport initiative grew out of a proposal developed by the Citizens Committee for Michigan State Parks, to provide a more stable, sustainable funding source for state parks, which lost all general taxpayer support in 2004. Since then, state parks and recreation areas have operated primarily on user fees and by borrowing from funds intended for capital repairs and improvements.

Just check “yes” on your license plate renewal form. If your plate expires in 2011 before September, your admission for 2011 is free until you renew. You will then have to purchase the recreation passport. Daily permits will no longer be available to residents.

If you are a non-resident, you must have a valid non-resident Recreation Passport which costs $29 per year or $8 per day. These are available at any state park entrance or through the Michigan e-store.

Spring has sprung. The grass is riz. Time for RVing and camping bliss!

Worth Pondering…

People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.

—Saint Augustine

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