Cheboygan State Park will share ARPA funds
CHEBOYGAN — Cheboygan State Park will see improvements to its facilities after being included in a list of 10 Michigan state parks to share nearly $16 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds.
Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources announced “shovel-ready” projects at parks across the state, including Cheboygan, Iosco, Mackinac, Saginaw, Wayne and Bay counties. These projects range from upgrades to lodges to electrical works and upgrades to the water distribution system, considered critical needs.
“The history of this goes back many years,” said Michigan Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division Chief Ron Olson.
Work at Cheboygan State Park will cost approximately $750,000 and will include upgrades to water supply and electrical systems in modern camping areas. This means that underground water pipes will be replaced, as well as electrical conduits, meters and distribution panels.
The state park will also have pitcher fillers and upgraded pedestals for campers to plug in and use electricity. MNR has also proposed an additional investment of $2 million in the park‘s sewer system.
Olson said that in 2005, the DNR conducted a comprehensive infrastructure assessment of the state park system. At that time, they totaled nearly $300 million worth of items and projects that needed to be addressed. These projects included roads, bridges, culverts, trails, structural projects such as rebuilding showers and upgrading utility systems such as water, sewer and electricity, but the funds did not were not available.
A little later, the state implemented the Recreational Passport Program, a endorsement on a license plate that allows a person to enter any state park around the state. This program generated a large amount of revenue that was set aside for the parks system.
Between 2005 and 2022, some of the projects included in the infrastructure assessment have been completed and others have taken their place on the list. Last year, Governor Gretchen Whitmer proposed $250 million for the restoration of state parks.
“She was well aware of the need because we kept track of it,” Olson said. “And at that time it was just under $270 million of identified projects that didn’t include boating or trails, it was for the state park and recreation areas .”
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Olson said the list has changed and evolved over the years and has become the basis of need. When the project slate was finalized for American Rescue Plan Act funding, adjustments had to be made because building a new state park in Flint would cost $30.2 million of the $250 million proposed dollars. MNR staff therefore screened the list and compiled the list of the highest priority projects, to ensure that “shovel-ready” projects received funding, including Cheboygan State Park, as well as several projects of trails, such as the Linden Lake Trail to the Upper Peninsula.
“Basically, overall, it’s been a long and evolutionary process and it’s been tweaked and tuned every year and that’s what formed the basis of these projects,” Olson said.
These projects are being funded with $15,962,000 in funding for the DNR’s first phase of state park upgrades. The money was made available through Whitmer’s $4.8 billion infrastructure program in its Building Michigan Together plan approved in March.
“Michigan’s state parks are beloved, defining the hallmarks of our beautiful state and because of the bipartisan Building Michigan Together plan that I signed earlier this year, we are investing resources to show our parks a love well-deserved and much-needed TLC,” Whitmer said. in a press release announcing the plans. “State parks support tens of thousands of jobs and countless local economies, strengthening small tourism and recreation businesses across the state. Together, let’s continue to improve them by meeting operational and infrastructure needs and ensuring that the people of Michigan have great public parks for future generations to enjoy.
Olson said some of the projects aren’t shiny new things. Some of the projects – such as in Cheboygan – relate to old underground water pipes, bad sewer lines or connections to municipal sewers.
However, many improvements are also being made to increase accessibility and ensure that state park facilities around the state meet and exceed all requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The DNR also seeks to make facilities as environmentally friendly as possible, with the incorporation of sustainable energy such as solar power.
Olson said many of these ARPA-funded projects are currently being tendered for design and construction and it’s hoped to have ground breaking by this fall. The bidding process is open to all contractors, but the DNR also hopes local businesses will bid on the projects.
State residents who want to track improvements in their area can go to the Michigan.gov/StateParksProgress website. This website includes an interactive map with project locations, project details and progress. There are also facts about local state parks and photos.
Contact journalist Kortny Hahn at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @khahnCDT.