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ARPA Funding FAQs
Where did this $250 million for state parks come from?
The Building Michigan Together Plan, signed by Gov. Whitmer March 30, 2022, will use $4.8 billion in federal funding to invest in roads, water, high-speed internet and the single largest investment in state and local parks. The funding is part of the federal relief program, the American Rescue Plan.
How does the Building Michigan Together Plan benefit state and local parks?
The DNR has been authorized $250 million to help invest in and modernize its award-winning, 103-year-old state parks and recreation system. Up to $30.2 million will go toward the creation of a new state park in Flint. The remaining funding will go toward a backlog of infrastructure maintenance projects on aging historic structures: camping facilities, paved and natural surface trails, parking lots, restrooms, water and sanitary systems, for example.
An additional $200 million will benefit local park systems, including $65 million to be administered through the Michigan Spark Grants Program and $135 million for dedicated greenway projects in Detroit, Grand Rapids and the U.P.
This $450 million investment is a one-time, supplemental funding source designated to improve infrastructure. Day-to-day operational costs, such as staff salaries, are not eligible.
How can the federal funds be used?
On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act into law. This law provides $350 billion in funding for cities, counties and states to recover from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. ARPA funds can be used to:
- Support public health expenditures.
- Address the negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency.
- Replace lost public sector revenue.
- Provide premium pay for essential workers.
- Invest in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.
Within the categories of eligible uses, recipients have broad flexibility to decide how best to use funding to meet the needs of their communities.
How is the DNR identifying projects to fund?
The DNR already had a list of existing critical repairs within state parks, which at one time totaled approximately $264 million. This figure doesn’t include a backlog of trails maintenance costs that are identified in the 2022-2032 Michigan DNR Trails Plan. A team reviewed the list of priority projects eligible for ARPA funds (if/when those funds were approved) and considered projects such as upgrades to water, electrical and sanitary systems; roads and parking lots; construction of toilet and shower buildings; preservation of historic structures; trail enhancements and more.
The team not only prioritized a list of infrastructure projects across the state, but also elevated projects that could be completed quickly or needed more time to be designed, such as the DNR’s Phase 1 and Phase 2 projects.
Why were camping and lodging rates increased in 2021 if the DNR was likely to receive ARPA funds?
The $250 million can be used only for capital investments – work/purchases that have long-term value for the state parks and recreation system – not the day-to-day operations of that system. Capital investments include things like electrical and water system upgrades; parking lot and road improvements; construction of toilet and shower buildings, and more.
Camping and lodging rates are routinely adjusted to help fund operational costs, such as staff salaries and benefits, and other non-infrastructure-related work (for example, lawn mowing and trash pickup) and supplies like toilet paper and cleaning products.
Does this $250 million solve state parks’ funding needs?
This investment will go a long way toward addressing the years-long backlog of needed capital investments that have already been identified in state parks, but it won’t stop new maintenance, repair and construction needs from continuing to develop in these popular and heavily used parks and trails. State parks alone welcome more than 35 million visitors a year!
Current revenue streams are not enough for long-term maintenance and infrastructure needs. The DNR will continue to look at creative ways of funding future capital investments and maintenance.
Aren’t state parks already funded through tax dollars?
Michigan’s general fund tax dollars provide just 3% of state park funding. The remaining funding 97% is generated through user fees and royalty revenues:
- Camping and lodging reservation fees (51%).
- Recreation Passport sales provide (26%).
- State-owned, oil, gas and mineral royalty revenues – which feed the Michigan State Parks Endowment Fund (15%).
- Concessions, shelter reservations and miscellaneous sources (5%).
Does ARPA funding have to be used by a certain date?
Federal funding requirements say that these funds must be obligated (committed to a project) by Dec. 31, 2024, and spent on that project by Dec. 31, 2026.
Will every announced state park project be completed?
The DNR intends to finish all projects that are identified for ARPA funding, but it’s important to note that project costs and timelines are only estimates based on the most urgent needs in the parks system. Actual costs and timelines may be affected by contractor availability, changing supply costs, supply chain challenges and other factors. Unanticipated higher costs for certain projects in earlier rounds may mean less available funding for projects in later rounds.
No matter what, the DNR will do everything possible to maximize the funds for the benefit of state parks and recreation resources and the visitors who value them.