Keeping the Trust

Tags: MNRTF, Natural Resources Trust Fund

2012 MNRTF Project Map

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund provides money for the state and for local counties, townships and cities to acquire and develop public recreation property. It is funded by royalties from oil and gas drilling on public lands as compensation to present and future Michigan citizens for the removal of a non-renewable resource belonging to the people of Michigan.

The citizens of Michigan voted the Trust Fund into the Constitution in 1984 to ensure that politicians didn’t subvert its purpose for political gain. A non-partisan advisory board reviews and approves all the projects that receive funding. The sole job of the legislature is to approve the Trust Fund board's decisions by appropriating money from the Trust Fund to pay for the projects.

The Trust Fund advisory board has recently recommended 99 projects to receive funding from the Trust Fund in over 25 different counties, plus state acquisitions for the River Raisin Recreation Area in southeast Michigan and regional land consolidations across the state.

Some of the projects include the Acme Shoreline Park near Traverse City, renovating the Rutherford Pool in Ypsilanti, the Sands Lake Park in Kalkaska County, and developing Pleasant Park in Kent County. These are projects in your communities that will provide families a place to swim, couples a place to go on a first date, your teenager a summer job, hunters a place to hunt, anglers a place to fish, and tourists a place to walk along the water between their hotel, the restaurant where they buy dinner, and the souvenir shop where they buy a memory of Pure Michigan®.

If you live in or near Arenac, Bay, Berrien, Cheboygan, Eaton, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Gogebic, Ionia, Iosco, Jackson, Kalkaska, Kent, Keweenaw, Leelanau, Manistee, Marquette, Monroe, Montcalm, Muskegon, Ottawa, Oakland, Roscommon, St. Clair, or Washtenaw Counties, then there is a project near you that will improve local recreation opportunities and put people to work making trails, resurfacing courts, building parks, and lifeguarding pools. Best of all, this money has been specifically set aside in the Michigan Constitution for these kinds of projects.

None of these projects, though, can move forward until the Michigan legislature appropriates Trust Fund money to them. The legislature has never before altered the board's recommendations, but a large infusion from record oil and gas leases in 2010 has some legislators casting greedy eyes on that money. One way they may seek to free it for other uses is to deny funding to approved projects. 

One of the arguments frequently cited for limiting Trust Fund purchases is that local townships have not always received their full Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILTs), which compensate for lost property tax revenue. A law enacted this summer, though, guarantees that all state lands purchased with Trust Fund dollars will have their PILTs paid in full by the Trust Fund. A majority of the funds, also, go directly to local, rather than state, projects. Of the approximately $39.7 million awarded, $29.7 million was awarded directly to a city, township or county. These local units of government cannot hire the workers to begin many of these projects, though, until the money is appropriated. This means that people who could be employed are not. 

You voted the Trust Fund into the Constitution to keep it away from legislators, and the only opportunity they have to mess with it is to fail to appropriate the funding or to limit the Trust Fund's legitimate purposes.

*UPDATE, March 1* Thanks to hundreds of Michigan LCV members who took action and e-mailed the appropriations committee, HB 5364 was passed out of committee on February 29 for the full House of Representatives to vote on it. Check in with Great Michigan's Legislation Watch to monitor its progress!

Here is the full list of recommended projects: 

Acquisition Projects

  • Pellegram property in Ottawa Co. (to Spring Lake Twp)
  • Harsens Island conservation area in St. Clair Co. (to Clay Twp)
  • Sparks county park trail connector in Jackson Co. (to Jackson Co.)
  • Prindle property in Bay Co. (to Bay Co.)
  • Riverfront park in St. Clair Co. (to Cottrellville Twp.)
  • Aloe property in Iosco Co. (to Iosco Co.)
  • Coastal wildlife corridor in Keweenaw Co. (to Eagle Harbor Twp.)
  • Blue Water river walk expansion in St. Clair Co. (to St. Clair Co.)
  • Arbor vistas preserve natural area connector in Washtenaw Co. (to Washtenaw Co.)
  • River Raisin recreation area
  • Wigwam Bay state wildlife area in Arenac County
  • Clay Cliffs natural area in Leelanau County (to Leland Twp)
  • Rail-trails
  • Sagimore property in Emmet County (to Resort Twp)
  • Acme waterfront park phase III(to Acme Twp)
  • Eco-regional land consolidation in the Upper Peninsula
  • CW2 Airline trailway in Oakland County (to Commerce, Walled Lake & Wixom trailway mgt council)
  • Eco-region acquisition in SW, SE, and Northern Lower Peninsula
  • Recreation trails in Marquette Co. (to Negaunee Twp)

 Development Projects

  • McCoy’s Creek trail development in Berrien Co. (to Buchanan)
  • Gallup Park canoe livery renovations in Washtenaw Co. (to Ann Arbor)
  • Bloomfield Park court resurfacing in Jackson Co. (to Jackson)
  • Lions Park beach improvements in Berrien Co. (to St. Joseph)
  • Sands Park development in Kalkaska Co. (to Coldsprings Twp)
  • Boardman Lake trail in Grand Traverse Co. (to Traverse City)
  • Lake St. Helen universal access development in Roscommon Co. (to Richfield Twp.)
  • Lake Odessa municipal beach development in Ionia Co. (to Lake Odessa)
  • Pleasant Park development in Kent County (to Kent County)
  • Historic bars park and garden development in Grand Traverse Co (to Garfield Twp)
  • Rutherford pool renovation in Washtenaw Co. (to Ypsilanti)
  • Veterans Mem. Skate Park development in Washtenaw Co. (to Ann Arbor)
  • Depot recreation park and trailhead improvements in Gogebic Co. (to Ironwood)
  • Manistee First St. beach house development in Manistee Co. (to Manistee)
  • Topinabee lakeside park improvements in Cheboygan Co. (to Mullet Twp)
  • Rotary Park development in Muskegon Co. (to Muskegon Co.)
  • Island Park development in Eaton Co. (to Dimondale)
  • Front St. pathway development in Leelanau Co. (to Suttons Bay)
  • Robert Lee Davis Mem Park improvements in Montcalm Co. (to McBride)