- Associated Press - Monday, June 25, 2018

DIMONDALE, Mich. (AP) - A Michigan lawmaker is looking to amend the rules governing trust fund money intended to grow public land for resource protection and recreational opportunities.

Republican Sen. Tom Casperson is proposing a funding solution for the Michigan Natural Resource Trust Fund on the November ballot, the Detroit News reported. He wants to amend Michigan’s Constitution to allow for at least 25 percent of any funding to go toward park land acquisition and at least 25 percent to development.

The trust fund money rules currently favor buying land instead of developing it, with less than 25 percent of funds going to development.

Trust fund board member Bill Rustem said the formula needs to change.

“Because we have to spend 75 percent on acquisitions, we’re basically approving nearly every acquisition project that comes through the door,” said Rustem. “I’m not sure we’re funding all of the best acquisitions in the state because we already bought all of the best acquisitions in the state.”

The fund has paid for more than $1.1 billion in public land purchases and land development from 1976 through 2016. About 80 percent of that amount, or $871 million, went to land acquisition while 20 percent, or $246 million, went to development.

Rustem said there’s a greater need for park development projects, such as Dimondale Village’s request to upgrade Danford Island Park. The Lansing area park was first aided by a nearly $170,000 grant from the fund five years ago. But village officials haven’t been able to secure a second round of funding to install a new restroom, gazebo and accessible paths that fit the American with Disabilities Act.

The Dimondale project would’ve had a better chance at securing grant money if the board wasn’t restricted by the funding formula, Rustem said.

Beyond changing the fund’s spending formula, Casperson’s proposal would also allow trust fund grants to replace old facilities and lift the trust fund cap so it could capture royalties again when the State Parks Endowment Fund hits a certain limit.

Casperson needs legislators to approve the ballot measure by Sept. 6. He’s likely facing an uphill battle with lawmakers on a 10-week summer break.


Information from: The Detroit News, http://detnews.com/

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