In May, the state of New York started shutting down 41 of its state parks. No money, the governor said. Close them.
A public uproar forced the Legislature to dredge up $11 million to reopen the parks, but the shock wave was felt across the land.
State parks closing? It’s happening in other states, too, like Arizona and California, but not in Michigan.
“They were boom states, now they are closing up,” said Chuck Nelson, professor of outdoor recreation at Michigan State University. “Meanwhile, poor Michigan’s citizens and users have kept this system afloat. Our parks are not extravagant, but they still work.”
Without any public funding since 2004 — only user and camper fees — Michigan’s state parks have managed to get by with a million small cuts and a few big ones, said Ron Olsen, director of parks and recreation.
They’ve tried everything from putting employees on bicycles instead of trucks to using cheaper light bulbs. They’ve slashed full-time staff nearly 14% in the past decade. And, most obviously, they’ve let infrastructure needs slide.