News Story

Whitmer supports opt-out system for state park passes

Only 36% of vehicle owners in Michigan buy $10 park passes. So lawmakers want to make it mandatory.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signaled her support in her 2025 budget recommendations for legislation that would automatically charge vehicle owners a fee for entry to state parks. CapCon previously reported on House Bill 5428, which would automatically charge vehicle owners a $10 entry fee for the recreation passport, regardless of whether they visit state parks. Vehicle owners who do not want to pay the fee would have to request a refund from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, within 30 days of the charge.

The budget recommendation has this to say about the fee:

The Michigan Recreation Passport program has played a crucial role in funding and maintaining state parks, recreation areas, and boating access sites. Residents opt into the program during vehicle registration, paying an annual fee that allows them access to these natural treasures. While the program has achieved notable success, the opt-in structure presents some challenges.

The recommendation cites a backlog of maintenance projects in state parks. It also notes that only 36% of vehicle owners opt to buy the pass.

There are 8.6 million registered vehicles in Michigan, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation. If all registered vehicles were automatically charged $10 for a recreation pass, the state-mandated fee would collect approximately $86 million from taxpayers.

The 2024 executive budget shows the state is expected to collect $14.5 million from the recreation pass this year under the current opt-in law. It collected $10.2 million in 2019 and $13.4 million in 2021.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.