Department of Natural Resources
Beginning in November 2021, the Department of Natural Resources is adjusting campsite and lodging fees to help ensure adequate funding for state park operations, the first such increase in four years.
Since 2019, state park attendance has grown from an estimated 28 million visitors to more than 35 million visitors, a 30% increase. This dramatic surge in visitors has added to day-to-day operational costs. Also requiring additional funding: preventative facility maintenance, repairs to aging infrastructure and addressing damage caused by storm events and high-water levels.
Approximately 97% of state parks funding for operations and maintenance is generated by user fees and royalty revenues.
Michigan's general fund tax dollars provides the remaining 3% of state park funding.
The new fee structure will apply to camping reservations and walk-in registrations made Nov. 1, 2021 and after. The new fee structure for overnight lodging reservations will be applied for stays beginning Nov. 1, 2022. The current rate will be honored for reservations already made for camp nights between Nov. 1, 2021 and April 30, 2022.
Following a 2020 statewide ballot proposal, at least 20% of the funds available for expenditures in any fiscal year from the Michigan State Parks Endowment Fund, which has supported park operations, must be dedicated for capital improvements. In addition to this new requirement, the State Parks Endowment Fund has diminished in recent years due to a reduction in oil, gas and mineral extraction on state-leased lands. As a result of the reduction in these funds - along with the rising cost of operating parks - we are seeking additional funds.
As a result of the increased revenue from these new fees, visitors should see enhancements throughout the state park system, including customer service, cleaner parks and restrooms, natural resource stewardship efforts and park amenities such as new fire rings and picnic tables. This adjustment will help fund more competitive pay rates for seasonal park workers who play a critical role in serving visitors during the busy summer season.
While the camping rate adjustment will help with day-to-day operations, Gov. Whitmer announced a proposed funding source to tackle a separate but equally important issue: a backlog of capital investments in state parks. This includes needed upgrades to water, electrical and sanitary systems, roads and parking lots, construction of toilet and shower buildings, preservation of historic structures, enhancements to trails and more. If approved by the Michigan Legislature, the governor's plan would make $250 million available to address $264 million in capital investments in state parks while supporting local businesses and economies. The funding would be part of the federal relief program, the American Rescue Plan.
The additional revenue gained from the adjusted campsite and lodging fees and the proposed $250 million to address a backlog of capital investments allows Michigan to modernize its award-winning 101-year-old state parks system, while adding amenities for today's visitors and future generations.