Skip to main content

Recreation Passport opt-out proposal

Recreation Passport logo

Recreation Passport opt-out proposal

Opt-out model, free annual state park access for veterans

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Fiscal Year 2025 Executive Recommendation proposes giving every one of Michigan’s military veterans and active-duty service members free annual access to state parks. To fund this change, and expand support for Michigan state parks, she proposes moving to an opt-out system for the Recreation Passport, a primary source of parks funding.

Under this proposal, Michigan motorists would pay for the Recreation Passport at the time of license plate purchase or renewal through the Secretary of State unless they decide to opt-out. Opting out would be simple. The refund would be immediate. Currently, the system follows an opt-in model.

Current state parks funding

State parks are largely self-supporting. Approximately 97% of state parks funding is generated by user fees (including the Recreation Passport) and royalty revenues. Just 3% comes from Michigan’s General Fund tax dollars. 

All Recreation Passport revenue goes into a restricted fund that supports state parks, after a portion is allotted to recreational boating and administrative needs. Half of that fund is allocated to state park infrastructure. The other half goes toward:

  • Operations and maintenance. 
  • A local grant program for community recreation agencies.
  • State forest campgrounds and nonmotorized pathways and trails.
  • Cultural and historic resource restoration.
  • Marketing and promotion.
State park funding model percentages

The benefit

Michigan state parks provide critical economic support to local communities. More than 35 million residents and out-of-state tourists visit our state parks annually. Since the pandemic, state park visits have jumped some 32%. The uptick in visitation and camping has strained our parks and demanded a larger investment in existing infrastructure and resources.

A more stable funding source for state parks is needed. Additional funds would also address a loss of state park funding because of reduced revenues from oil and gas royalties on state-managed public lands. 

An opt-out system would provide an estimated $17.2 million in additional revenue to help upgrade and modernize state parks. The additional funds would nearly double funding for local parks and recreation grants provided to cities, villages and counties. The annual allocation for those grants would increase from $1.9 million to $3.6 million.

Broadening participation in the Recreation Passport through an opt-out model would enable us to honor our state’s active-duty service members and military veterans, while making sure we have state parks that will serve Michigan well into the future.