Michigan Recreation Passport - Early and Often!

Recently, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced the successful completion of the first year of the Michigan Recreation Passport program.
Started by the legislature in 2010, the Recreation Passport program allows Michigan residents to purchase their pass for entrance to any of Michigan’s state parks and boat access sites by paying a $10.00 fee when renewing their motor vehicle license plate tags each year with the Secretary of State.
The DNR reported that in its first year of existence, 24.7% of Michigan residents opted to participate in the program, narrowly beating the department’s goal of 24.3%. It also reported that the program needed to reach 17% buy in to break even from 2009 state park entrance fee revenues. By surpassing this “break even” point, $18 million in revenues were brought in, of which over $6 million will be mandated to go towards park improvement and management.
The department also announced that it will begin enforcing the statute more thoroughly by issuing notices and citations in 2012. This past year, no citations were given to people without a Recreation Passport. Instead, simple warnings were given as a way for people to get familiar with the program and the warnings reminded them to purchase a passport the next time they renew their vehicle registration.
For those who did not opt in to the program while at the Secretary of State but chose later to purchase a passport at a park front entrance, you may have noticed that it still cost you the same $10.00. Do not get used to this.
In 2012, the fee for purchasing a passport at the park entrance instead of the SOS will be identical - $10. However, starting in 2013, the fee for purchasing the passport at a park will bump up to $15, and in 2014 the fee will increase to $20, which is the maximum allowed. This will not change the fee for purchasing at the SOS when you renew your vehicle license plate. That SOS purchased fee will remain $10.
While this might seem unfair to some, the idea is to get the majority of citizens to purchase their passport at the SOS instead of at the park entrance, thus allowing the park staff to devote their time and resources to other park management and service duties. This is a concept MUCC supports. The more park staff has to man the cashier’s station at the front entrance, the less time they have for other duties in the park. This, along with making it easier for residents to access and use our state parks, was the goal of the Michigan Recreation Passport program.
Some additional news:
House Bill 5049 was recently given a hearing in the House Natural Resources, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation committee. This bill requests a change to the language on the recreation passport registration form given to citizens at the SOS. The language change would be for those electing not to pay the fee at the SOS and the language would read, “I am not interested in a recreation passport at this time.”
The stated reasons behind the proposed change are that the current language is deceptive to registrants because it gives the impression that they do not have the opportunity to purchase a passport at another time and location other than the SOS office.
While MUCC is not sold that this language would negate any current confusion, MUCC has suggested that any changes to the current language contain an acknowledgement by the registrant that they realize by checking “no” they will still be required to purchase a passport later to legally enter a state park.
For MUCC members and the public who have read this blog, this change should not have an effect on your since you will already know to either purchase your passport at the SOS, or get it at the park once you arrive.
So, the moral of the story is – buy your recreation passport early and use it often!

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