Posts Tagged ‘Natural Resources Trust Fund’

Natural Resources Trust Fund: applauded and attacked

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder gave a state of the state address tonight that touched on issues related to biking in Michigan, including this:

“I urge the prompt passage of a capital outlay bill that implements the recommendations of the Natural Resources Trust Fund. From the greatness of the land and the resourcefulness of the citizens of the Upper Peninsula to the unquestioned beauty and economic engine as our Great Lakes, natural resources and recreation have always been among our strongest areas. The Fund’s board of trustees has recommended 117 recreation and land acquisition projects totaling more than $100 million. These projects will positively impact every corner of our state from Iron County in the Upper Peninsula to Traverse City to Luna Pier in Monroe County. Also included is a significant expansion of the William G. Milliken Park on the Detroit Riverfront.”

That is excellent to hear and very welcomed. And it was good to see the bipartisan standing ovation it received.

However, it was just last Thursday when West Michigan legislators introduced bills (HB 4021HB 4028HJR B) that would raid the Natural Resources Trust Fund. It would divert upwards of 80% of its annual revenues. Twenty percent of the diverted funds would go towards the State Aeronautics Fund while the remainder would go to the Michigan Transportation Fund.

The intent of this Trust Fund is to take revenues from irreplaceable natural resources extracted from public lands and make longterm investments in new public lands and parks. This proposed Trust Fund raid would put most of the money into airports and road projects.

Having a deja vu? Yes, these same bills were introduced in the last session. They died in committee. It’s difficult to say if these bills will move further along given the new Republican control of the House.

Other items in the state of the state

The Governor said the state should reward municipalities that consolidate and share services. Does this mean they would provide incentives for counties governments to absorb their road commissions? Not sure.

It was great to hear the Governor promote wellness.

“We will look to build a system that encourages all of us to have an annual physical, reduce obesity and encourage a healthier, active lifestyle in our state”

As someone noted on Twitter, Complete Streets would help.

And lastly Snyder  threw his support behind the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC). The DRIC’s current plans are to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians. This could be one option for getting between Canada and the U.S.

Canada wants this new bridge so badly that they’ve agreed to cover Michigan’s capital investment. Canada’s loan would be paid back through bridge tolls.

The big news is the Federal Highway Administration has agreed to count this loan as Michigan’s match for federal transportation dollars. Without match dollars, the state could lose millions in road funding. This appears to be a huge win which removes some pressure to find transportation money in other places.

Like the Trust Fund.

Major Detroit trail and park grants get the nod

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

The Dequindre Trail abuts the historic Globe Building

Yesterday was likely the biggest day in Michigan history for greenspace grant decisions largely due to a recent windfall in gas and oil leases on state land.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) Board of Trustees today recommended to Governor Jennifer M. Granholm that 117 recreation projects and land acquisitions totaling $102,098,400 be funded in 2011. The board this year had considered 165 applications for development and acquisition projects totaling $140.4 million, which were competitively evaluated based on scoring criteria developed by the MNRTF board.

“Michigan’s remarkable natural resources help to make our state more appealing to residents and visitors alike,” said Governor Jennifer M. Granholm. “The important work of the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund makes it possible to acquire and safeguard some of our most beautiful natural and recreational areas for the enjoyment of current and future generations.”

Of course these grant decisions are not final and are subject to a review by the Governor before the Michigan legislature actually appropriates the money sometime next year.

So, how’d this area do?

City of Detroit

Clearly the biggest winner was the Detroit RiverWalk, Milliken State Park, and Dequindre Cut. These three projects were recommended for a whopping $34.4 million for land acquisition.

Here’s how that funding breaks down. Note the the DNRE was the applicant for the first three, while Detroit applied for the Dequindre Cut expansion.

  • William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor (Wayne County) – $20 million. This funding will be used to acquire three to six large private inholding parcels and trail easements along the Detroit Riverfront as additions to the William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor in downtown Detroit.
  • Globe Building Adventure and Discovery Center Acquisition (Wayne County) – $9 million. This funding would be used by the DNRE to acquire 48,000 square feet of built-out space in the Globe Building for the William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor Adventure and Discovery Center in downtown Detroit.
  • Detroit Riverfront Easements and Acquisitions (Wayne County) – $5 million. These funds would be used by the DNRE to acquire public use easements and land acquisitions along the Detroit River from the Ambassador Bridge to the MacArthur Bridge as part of a 5-mile-long public greenway.
  • Dequindre Cut Expansion, City of Detroit (Wayne County) – $375,000. These funds would be used to acquire a 0.7-mile section of abandoned rail corridor in downtown Detroit that continues the Dequindre Cut north, connecting the Detroit Riverfront to the historic Eastern Market.

A million dollars in Detroit Recreational Department projects were also recommended, both of which include trails. These grants  along with the Dequindre Cut grant would not have been possible without the city’s recreation plan being approved earlier this year — a basic requirement for this funding source.

  • City of Detroit (Wayne County) is recommended to receive $500,000 to develop the Balduck Park In-Town Youth Camp and Family Picnic Area. This will include restrooms, picnic shelter, play area, nature trail, walking path, camp activity areas, pathways and interpretive signs.
  • City of Detroit (Wayne County) is recommended to receive $500,000 for improvements to Patton Park, including construction of two softball diamonds, lighting, comfort station, picnic shelter, parking lot improvements, connecting pathways, and an asphalt trail linking the Greenway to the sidewalks.

Wayne County

Four other projects in Wayne County were recommended:

  • Northville Township (Wayne County) – $3,053,700. These funds would be used for Phase II acquisition of 51.01 acres to create a linear park connecting the former Northville State Hospital property with the Wayne County Hines Parkway system and also preserve 200-year-old growth forest and link to the Southeast Michigan Greenways Network.
  • Wayne County is recommended to receive $500,000 to develop the Refuge Gateway Boat Dock/Fishing Pier for the Great Lakes Schoolship and associated recreational features.
  • City of Flat Rock (Wayne County) is recommended to receive $447,900 for the Flat Rock-Oakwood Metro Park Connector. This project will develop 1.93 miles of trail linking the Flat Rock Greenway to the Oakwood Metro Park Greenway to create a contiguous 23-mile greenway system in southeast Michigan.
  • City of Inkster (Wayne County) is recommended to receive $408,000 to develop a 4.5-mile Inkster Park Greenway Trail through the city along Wayne County parkland adjacent to the Lower Rouge River.

Oakland County

Five projects in Oakland County were recommended, but perhaps the biggest news was the one that wasn’t, the Wixom, Commerce, Walled Lake rail-trail, part of the Michigan Air Line. It was rejected last year due to a lack of matching funds. This year the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) spoke against it since the original plan would have negatLively impacted a local rail customer. That plan had been updated to remove that impact but MEDC was apparently unaware of it and no one was at the meeting to address the update. This is very unfortunate given the large amount of funding available this year.

  • West Bloomfield Township (Oakland County) is recommended to receive $500,000 to develop a 2.5-mile, 10-foot wide aggregate path; road crossings; benches; interpretive signs; native seeding along the West Bloomfield Trail, which is part of the Michigan Airline Trail system.
  • City of Novi (Oakland County) is recommended to receive $437,500 to develop a trailhead for Landings Park for the existing and future non-motorized regional pathway system within the 11-acre Landings parkland, with an accessible waterfront park with 835 feet of naturalized shoreline.
  • Oakland County is recommended to receive $308,000 to develop universally accessible amenities at Highland Oaks, Lyon Oaks, Red Oaks and Rose Oaks parks.
  • Oakland Township (Oakland County) is recommended to receive $154,900 for the improvements at the Lost Lake Nature Park, including renovation of existing residence for nature center use, a fishing dock, non-motorized boating, nature observation/education, accessibility improvements to parking lot, pedestrian routes, interpretative signage and storm water buffers.
  • Village of Leonard (Oakland County) – $22,500. This funding would be used to acquire 0.28 acres of property adjacent to the Polly Ann Trail.

Macomb County

Only one project was recommended in Macomb County. The county had submitted a grant request for the Lake St. Clair Shoreline Trail between Selfridge AFB and the lake. That was rejected since the land was already in public ownership. The case was being made that although it was in public ownership, it hadn’t been open to the public. Apparently that argument didn’t win out.

  • Macomb County is recommended to receive $205,000 to develop the Nicholson Nature Center, including a restroom facility, classrooms, boardwalk, trails, stream crossings, wetlands enhancement and signage.

Link: Complete list of all funding recommendations

Detroit RiverWalk expansion and nudging the HCMA

Friday, November 26th, 2010

We just received copies of minutes from last month’s Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund meeting. Typically these minutes contain discussions on Trust Find grant requests from around the state.

These minutes in particular contain discussions on three DNRE grant applications for the RiverWalk. (The city of Detroit has four additional grant requests, including one for extending the Dequindre Cut north to Mack.)

Mr. Yauk outlined the Detroit Riverfront applications that have been submitted. These are all Tier 1 acquisitions. The following acquisition projects were outlined:

10-159. Milliken State Park Acquisition (Wayne County) – Acquisition of Detroit Riverfront parcels – Atwater parcel is scheduled for housing or high-end development; Chene West parcel was a former concrete facility which is now a razed site; and Chene East parcel. Request: $20 million.

Chairperson Muchmore asked what the plans were for the Atwater parcel. Mr. Yauk responded that the plan is for high-end condos with zero lot line. If the property is successfully acquired, the DNRE plans another phased development of the open corridor on the Detroit waterfront for the park. Chairperson Muchmore wondered how much potential there was that the condominium development would actually take place. Mr. Yauk responded that Detroit is focusing on the waterfront for development. The DNRE wants to obtain these properties and capture the waterfront for future generations. It is critical for what the DNRE wants to do for downtown Detroit.

Mr. Yauk further responded that the park is 21 acres at the present time and acquiring these acquisitions would be a great improvement. There are over two million visitors to the park each year.

Chairperson Muchmore asked who owns the property. Director Humphries responded the City of Detroit, Economic Development, and they will not donate the property to the DNRE. The DNRE attempted to negotiate for this parcel at the conception of the park, but were not successful, as the city thought they could develop it.

Chairperson Muchmore was apprehensive about the city, when the DNRE is spending a lot of money to develop parks and the city has not contributed in the costs. The property values are being held up, which are less desirable properties that the city cannot do anything with.

Mr. Charters asked if the Board would be provided with a breakdown of the estimated cost of properties. Mr. Yauk responded yes, but the appraisals have not been started.

10-128, Globe Building Adventure and Discovery Center Acquisition (Wane County) – Acquisition of 10,000+ feet for an urban outdoor learning center. This would provide hands-on outdoor education opportunities. Request: $2 million.

Chairperson Muchmore asked if this would work as opposed to the Belle Isle Aquarium. Mr. Yauk responded that the Belle Isle Aquarium is a great project, but Milliken State Park gets two million visitors a year.

10-130, Detroit Riverfront Easements and Acquisitions (Wayne County) – Acquisitions to consolidate the existing Detroit Riverfront easements – 3.5 to 4 miles from Ambassador Bridge to MacArthur Bridge. Request: $5 million.

The Trust Fund makes their grant decision next month, but as we mentioned before, they have an unusually large amount of money to spend this year. That greatly increases the odds that the RiverWalk projects will be funded to some extent.

These grant requests certainly highlight the DNRE’s commitment to the RiverWalk and building greenspace in Detroit.

Metroparks investment in Detroit

Also at this meeting, the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority (HCMA) made a pitch for a trails project in their Hudson Mills Metropark.

That elicited this interesting discussion from Trust Fund board member Bob Garner regarding the HCMA’s relative lack of commitment to Detroit.

Mr. Garner mentioned that there was no presence of HCMA facilities in the City of Detroit. He wondered if there was any chance of redirecting HCMA support and funding for the Detroit Riverfront. Mr. Moilanen responded that HCMA is actively researching ways that HCMA can be more active within the City of Detroit. A couple members of HCMA sit on the board of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. HCMA did have a presence around Belle Isle with the Detroit Zoo for five years. That relationship has ended, but over the years has pursued a number of ways to be involved.

Mr. Garner feels that HCMA should have a presence in the city. He wondered if perhaps HCMA could assist in acquiring and developing one of the properties being proposed for acquisition to Milliken State Park. Mr. Moilanen responded that HCMA was very interested in acquiring the operation and ownership of Belle Isle (in early 1970s). Earlier this year, HCMA’s Board has again voiced this interest, and has researched ways to become more actively involved.

Chairperson Muchmore stated that the DNRE is looking for a partner in acquiring the Globe Building property.

It’s great to see this awareness among the Trust Fund. They’re basically telling the HCMA that they want to see some grant requests for Detroit projects. Ideas for HCMA investments have been floated in the past, including Belle Isle, Fort Wayne, the State Fairgrounds, and some Detroit greenways.

They should be investing in the state’s largest city. Detroiters are paying that HCMA millage, too.

Snyder puts likely allies in his cabinet

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Michigan’s next governor has been making some intriguing appointments that initially look favorable to biking and trails.

According to Crain’s Detroit Business, Bill Rustem will serve as the director of strategy.

Rustem will help implement the policies and initiatives needed to reinvent Michigan, Snyder’s spokesman said.

“Bill understands how to implement good policy and make government more responsive to the people it serves,” Snyder said in a statement. “Bill will help my administration implement the vision to reinvent state government so it brings value to people’s lives.”

Rustem served as Milliken’s chief staff adviser on environmental matters and as interim director of the Toxic Substances Control Commission. Milliken was widely regarded as a moderate Republican. Rustem was also instrumental in the 1976 campaign for Michigan’s bottle deposit law and helped create Michigan’s Natural Resources Trust Fund. He is an adjunct professor at Michigan State University.

And as we noted earlier, Rustem was also a board member of the Michigan chapter of the Rails to Trails Conservancy.

Could he help us connect Complete Streets, trails, urban renewal, and youth retention within the governor’s office?

Another Crain’s article reveal Dennis Muchmore’s appointment as chief of staff.

His background includes previously serving as executive director of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, vice president at the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, and as a member of Oakland University‘s board of trustees. Muchmore currently is on the state’s Climate Action Council and is chair of the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund board.

Yes, another Trust Fund person and someone who understands DNRE issues — this is good.

We’ve spoken in the past with Muchmore and he’s expressed his interest in bringing Trust Fund dollars to urban trail projects.

Legislators trying to raid Michigan’s Trust Fund

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

State Rep. Dave Agema is leading the raid on Michigan's Natural Resources Trust Fund

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and Federal Transportation Enhancements are the two main funding sources for biking and trail projects in this state.

Now one, if not both are under attack.

The raid on the Trust Fund is quite clear. But let’s begin by noting what this fund is. From the DNR web site:

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) has been in place since 1976. It provides financial assistance to local governments and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) to purchase land or rights in land for public recreation or protection of land because of its environmental importance or its scenic beauty. It also assists in the appropriate development of land for public outdoor recreation.

The MNRTF is supported by annual revenues from the development of State-owned mineral resources, largely oil and gas.

In the Metro Detroit are, the Trust Fund has helped buy trails (e.g. Clinton River Trail), build trails (e.g. Dequindre Cut, RiverWalk), and build parks (Milliken State Park.)

Michigan legislators have introduced bills to divert 80% of the incoming funding and spend it on roads and the aeronautics fund. The message is clear: pavement over parks.

Fortunately this attack on our funding will require significant effort. According to the DNRE, “The MNRTF is constitutionally protected, and, therefore, the passage of this law would require a Constitutional amendment (2/3 majority vote of both the House of Representatives and the Senate and then a majority vote of the citizens).”

Who is behind this attack?

There are two bills and one resolution involved: House Resolution NNN, House Bill 6482, and House Bill 6483. Representative Dave Agema (R-Grandville) is the main sponsored the first two, while Representative Bob Genetski (R-Saugatuk) sponsored the latter. Representatives Eileen Kowall (R-White Lake), Sharon Tyler (R-Niles), John Walsh (R-Livonia), Tom Pearce (R-Rockford), and Joe Haveman (R-Holland) are co-sponsors across the board.

This attempt to rob the Trust Fund really began with the Transportation Funding Task Force, which we wrote about in December of 2008. That effort was stacked with road lobby members so it was no surprise when they suggested taking money dedicated to parks, recreational and greenspace.

All bills are in the Great Lakes and Environment committee where they will hopefully die this session. But don’t hesitate to call and let your state representative know how you feel about this raid.