Governor Whitmer visited a park in St. Clair Shores on Wednesday to promote her proposal to distribute $ 150 million from the US rescue plan to local communities for parks and recreation.
Whitmer spoke about her plan in Wahby Park near the lakefront about an hour after she attended Ojibwa Elementary School in Macomb Township to publicly sign a bill that would add $ 4.4 billion in federal COVID aid in support of schools across the state.
Whitmer said that Michigan parks and recreation have been neglected for too many years, and now is the opportunity to use a portion of the $ 11.7 billion in ARP dollars coming to Michigan for parks, playgrounds, basketball courts, and hiking trails more to use.
She said the personal and economic benefits of parks and recreation areas had become overwhelmingly apparent over the past 15 months during the unfortunate COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
“COVID has shown us how important parks are to our physical and mental well-being,” said Whitmer from a podium surrounded by several officials. “There are so many opportunities for outdoor recreation in our parks, and the companies that make these activities possible are important partners in our work to maintain and improve our outdoor spaces.
“Important investments in our local parks and recreational facilities that will help us get our business off the ground.”
She said the state recreational industry supports 126,000 jobs and receives $ 4.7 billion in salaries.
“We know the disproportionate nature of COVID has hit our tourism and hospitality industries, so these are important assets that we must continue to invest in,” she said.
St. Clair Shores Mayor Kip Walby speaks at a press conference Wednesday at which Governor Gretchen Whitmer promoted her plan to spend $ 150 million on local parks and recreation from the federal rescue plan. MACOMB DAILY PHOTO-JAMESON COOK
“When a park is renovated, it brings the community together,” said Walby. “I think this funding is to help these parks and to create the funding so that people can enjoy the parks. There is no better quality of life for our residents than if you improve these parks. “
County Executive Mark Hackel noted that Macomb County has 32 miles of shoreline, 215 parks, 255 miles of hiking trails, and two liveries on the Clinton River.
“And we want to add to that, and we have the option to do that because the governor is announcing or at least putting pressure on some of this funding,” he said.
Her proposal came a month after she announced her intention to use $ 250 million in ARP dollars for state parks.
Andrea LaFontaine, a native of Richmond Township and executive director of the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, a nonprofit group, advocated more dollars for hiking trails.
“Trails are the gateway to nature and the vast natural resources our great state has to offer,” she said. “A planned investment of $ 150 million would enable communities to give their residents better access to hiking trails.”
Andrea LaFontaine, executive director of a nonprofit promoting hiking trails in Michigan, speaks at Governor Whitmer’s press conference Wednesday in St. Clair Shores.MACOMB DAILY PHOTO – JAMESON COOK
Whitmer was also asked about the status of a state disaster declaration for the late June flooding in Wayne County, including the significant impact in Grosse Pointe. Whitmer, who declared a state emergency on June 26, said she hoped officials could work faster than they would in the several months following the 2014 flood, which also included Macomb County.
She said she spoke with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas about speeding up the request for FEMA funding to help homeowners recover. “They know where we stand and are committed to working closely with us,” she said.
Whitmer, whose 2018 campaign slogan was “Fix the Damn Roads,” said after the conversation that she had pushed for the underground infrastructure to be modernized, noting that last October she announced the MI Clean Water Plan, a $ 500 million Dollar plan to modernize the state’s water infrastructure.
“We have argued to lawmakers that this underground infrastructure is just as important as the infrastructure that is on or above the ground,” she said. “If we can do that, we would have thousands of jobs, we would have millions in investments. We’d improve the water infrastructure, and that’s something, whether you’re in Macomb County or Mecosta County, across the state, it matters. The slogan was ‘fix the damn roads’ but the infrastructure always included the underground water infrastructure. “