Proposal to change MI's Natural Resource Trust Fund will appear on ballot – here's what it means

Posted at 6:24 AM, Sep 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-02 07:09:23-04

(WXYZ) — A push to increase funding for Detroit's riverfront and state parks is making its way onto the November ballot.

The group behind the initiative says there's no burden to taxpayers.

This year, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy says there's been a 20% increase in use along the riverfront. The Dequindre Cut has seen a 50% increase in usage.

"Since COVID hit, we've seen just a tremendous increase in the number of people who are spending time outdoors," Detroit Riverfront Conservancy President & CEO Mark Wallace said.

That's definitely a good thing, he said, and added that the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund helps maintain upkeep of spaces like the Riverfront.

"It's been an amazing way for the state to really invest in creating and renovating some of the great parks and trails we have all through the state," Wallace said.

The trust fund was established in 1976 and is funded by revenue from oil, gas and mineral lease royalties, not taxpayer dollars.

Now, the Riverfront Conservancy is pushing to have more of the funds go towards outdoor recreation.

"So there's a statewide ballot proposal that will be voted on November 3rd during the general election and that's vote yes for Michigan water," Wallace said. "What it does, it allows for a change to the funding formula. It doesn't raise tax but it increases the royalties taken from oil and gas industry members."

Wallce said nearly $30 million has been invested in the Riverwalk over the years.

The conservancy says that currently, 25% of that trust fund is allocated for land acquisition and conservation.

The ballot proposal would maintain that, and if the vote goes their way, another 25% would be strictly dedicated to spending on outdoor recreation.

The other 50% of the trust fund would be discretionary for those categories and fund administration.