Proos votes to support three Natural Resources Trust Fund projects in Southwest Michigan

LANSING―The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved legislation allocating $24.7 million from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (NRTF) to natural resources improvement projects across the state, said Sen. John Proos.

The trust fund is supported by interest earned on funds generated from the development of state-owned mineral rights.

“The Natural Resources Trust Fund is dedicated to making Michigan a better place to live, work and raise a family,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “Investing these constitutionally restricted funds in vibrant parks and recreational resources improves our quality of life and makes our state more attractive to job creators and top talent. This plan will enhance outdoor opportunities for Southwest Michigan families and tourists by supporting three area projects, including improvements to scenic beachfront property along Lake Michigan.”

House Bill 4078 authorizes the trust fund to spend $24.7 million to support 25 acquisition projects and 44 development projects. Matching funds of $9.8 million bring the total investment to more than $34.5 million.

HB 4078 specifically provides $300,000 toward the $600,000 development project in Berrien County. The Rocky Gap improvements will include a barrier-free ramp to the waterfront, restroom building, weather shelter and enlarged parking area.

Two other Southwest Michigan projects also funded by the measure include:
• $749,900 toward an acquisition of a 120-acre parcel with 5,500 feet of frontage on Dowagiac Creek in Cass County that offers exceptional recreation opportunities, such as fishing, kayaking and hunting; and
• $504,800 toward a $731,700 acquisition of 137 acres with frontage on three sides of Stewart Lake in St. Joseph County.

“These trust fund projects are about making wise investments to give Michigan families and visitors more and better options to enjoy our state’s great outdoors,” said Rep. Aaron Miller, R-Sturgis. “St. Joseph County residents will especially enjoy total access to outstanding fishing and swimming on all of Stewart Lake, which has previously been closed to the public.”

The NRTF uses constitutionally restricted funds to provide financial assistance to local governments and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to purchase land or rights in land for public recreation or protection of land because of its environmental importance or its scenic beauty. It also assists in the appropriate development of land for public outdoor recreation.

HB 4078 has been sent to the full Senate, which is expected to approve the measure next week.