News Story

‘Vital’ Great Lakes Program Funds Playground Rehab In Milwaukee

Many Great Lakes Restoration Initiative projects only loosely tied to 'critical' protection

A recent Toledo Blade editorial praised a proposed increase in federal spending on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a grant program.

The op-ed repeated many of the buzzwords, such as “critical” and “crucial,” routinely used in media reports describing the GLRI, which has spent $2.7 billion since 2010. “Preserving the initiative’s work is crucial to protecting the lakes, their environment, and the economies and quality of life of states that border them,” the Toledo Blade editorial stated.

Such language suggests that the program funds only major water quality research efforts and large-scale cleanups, and some of the journalists who use it may have that impression. Yet many of 5,300 proposals the GLRI has funded are for activities that appear only loosely connected to the lakes.

For example, in 2018 GLRI gave the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, public school district $440,000 to rehab four school playgrounds. Dubbed “Greener, Healthier Schoolyards” by the grant seekers, here’s how GLRI described the spending:

“Milwaukee Public Schools will renovate four Milwaukee schoolyards by creating unique outdoor play spaces designed to provide up to 4.7 million gallons of stormwater storage annually. Project will install green stormwater infrastructure best practices to create green recreational facilities that provide improved environmental, social, and economic health benefits to students and communities.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential has published other examples of questionable GLRI grants.

Last month, President Donald Trump proposed spending $320 million on GLRI in next year’s budget, a $20 million increase, according to Michigan Radio.

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.