Categories
Policy

Proposal 1 Passes Overwhelmingly

Thanks voting on Proposal 1. The passage of the proposal is good for land conservation and park/trail development in Detroit and across Michigan.

The following is a press released issued by the Vote Yes on Prop 1 coalition, which we were a part of:


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 03, 2020

CONTACT

Thomas Meara | tmeara@kivvit.com | 718-309-3506

Halimah Elmariah | helmariah@kivvit.com | 201-290-9753

PROPOSAL 1 PASSES OVERWHELMINGLY, CONTINUING MICHIGAN’S COMMITMENT TO CONSERVATION

MICHIGAN – Today, Michiganders made history by overwhelmingly voting YES on Proposal 1 to protect Michigan’s water, wildlife and parks for generations to come. Voters across the political spectrum voted yes on Proposal 1, which commits oil and gas royalties to protection of our land, water sources and parks in perpetuity by lifting the cap on Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund.  This victory sends a clear message to lawmakers that voters across the state prioritize the protection of our natural resources and access to outdoor recreation for all Michiganders to enjoy.

Proposal 1 had broad, bipartisan support from the start. It was put on the November ballot unanimously by the Michigan Legislature in 2018 and was supported by all of Michigan’s living governors.

The Vote Yes on Prop 1 campaign was founded by the The Nature Conservency, Michigan Environmental Council, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Heart of the Lakes, mParks and Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance. Notably, it was supported by more than 70 environmental, conservation, business, community and labor organizations who worked together to pass Proposal 1.

“Proposal 1 passed because of strong bipartisan support from conservationists and environmentalists, business and community leaders and our elected officials. This is a victory for Michiganders in every corner of the state – from the U.P. to Detroit,” said Becca Maher, Vote Yes campaign manager. “With the passage of Proposal 1, voters sent a clear message to Lansing – we must prioritize protecting our natural resources and conserving and creating access to our outdoor spaces, now and for future generations.”

“The passage of Proposal 1 marks a historic moment in Michigan’s conservation legacy. With this victory, we have guaranteed that the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund will continue receiving the funds necessary to protect our public lands, clean water sources, wildlife habitats and parks in perpetuity,” said Helen Taylor from The Nature Conservancy. “All Michiganders will benefit from the passage of Proposal 1.”

“Voters have sent a decisive message with the overwhelming support for Prop 1: The protection of our lands and natural areas is core to who we are and must be a priority,” said Conan Smith from Michigan Environmental Council. “Michiganders understand the importance of spending time in nature and this victory guarantees an increase in opportunities for outdoor recreation across the state, something we should all celebrate.”

“The passage of Proposal 1 is a victory for Michigan’s hunters, anglers, sportsmen and sportswomen. Our public lands and outdoor spaces will be protected for decades to come because of the guarantees enshrined in Proposal 1,” said Amy Trotter from Michigan United Conservation Clubs. “We are proud to have supported and worked on this campaign with a broad and bipartisan coalition to protect Michigan’s water, wildlife habitats and parks for generations.”

“Today is a victory for land conservation and public recreation in Michigan. With the passage of Proposal 1, we have guaranteed funding will be available to expand our vast network of trails and make our beautiful outdoors spaces accessible to more Michiganders,” said Andrea LaFontaine from Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance. “Our elected officials should take note, and all Michiganders should celebrate this victory.”

“We are estatic that Proposal 1 passed with overwhelming support from voters. More trails, parks, playgrounds and outdoor spaces can be supported in communities across the state for Michiganders to enjoy without using a dime of taxpayer money,” said Clay Summers from mParks. “The Vote YES coalition was integral to the passage of Proposal 1, and we are proud to have been a part of this incredible coalition.”

“Michiganders demonstrated a clear commitment to protecting and improving Michigan’s public lands and outdoor spaces by passing Proposal 1 with such overwhelming support,” said Jonathan Jarosz from Heart of the Lakes.  “We are thrilled that this constitutional change means communities across the state will get to enjoy even more opportunties to get outside and spend time in nature.”

For more information on Vote YES for MI Water, Wildlife and Parks campaign, visit www.MIWaterWildlifeParks.com

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About Vote YES for MI Water, Wildlife and Parks

The Vote YES for MI Water, Wildlife and Parks campaign is a broad and diverse coalition formed to encourage Michiganders to vote YES on Proposal 1 this November to protect our drinking water, wildlife habitats and parks for future generations. For more information, visit www.MIWaterWildlifeParks.com.

Categories
Greenways Policy

Why We Endorse Proposal 1

  • The Michigan Naturals Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) is a major funding source for acquiring land for conservation, parks, and trails.
  • The Trust Fund also helps develop parks and trails, though it is currently limited.
  • Proposal 1 maintains the existing grant funding for land acquisitions and increases it for parks and trails. It will also make the redevelopment of existing facilities eligible.
  • Proposal 1 removes the Trust Fund cap, allowing future oil, gas, and mining royalties to be deposited here rather than in the state’s general fund.

Proposal 1 on this November’s ballot makes some changes to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund — and we think they’re all improvements. That’s why we joined the Vote YES on Proposal 1 Coalition along with over 30 other Michigan environment and conservation organizations.

What is the Trust Fund? It’s a dedicated fund that was created from the royalties on oil, gas, and mining operation on state land. It stopped receiving those funds in 2011 when it hit its $500 million cap. However it’s still growing from the interest and investments of those funds. To protect it from being raided for other purposes, voters moved it into the State Constitution (Section 35).

Each year, governments apply for grants from the fund. Those grants are scored, prioritized, then recommended (or not) by the appointed Trust Fund board before being approved by the legislature and governor.

Trust Fund grants have been instrumental for land acquisition and park development in Detroit, including the RiverWalk, Dequindre Cut, May Creek Greenway, Belle Isle, and the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center. Many Detroit parks (e.g. Balduck, Patton, Butzel) have been renovated with these funds as well.

In 2013, we wrote a $3.4 million Trust Fund grant for the City of Detroit that allowed them to purchase the abandoned railroad corridor that will be part of the Joe Louis Greenway.

Ballot proposal impacts

Currently, a maximum of 25% of the available grants funding can be spent on park and trail development grants. The proposal changes this to a minimum of 25%, the same minimum for land acquisition. This analysis from the House Fiscal Agency highlights the benefit in doing this:

Changing the restriction on funds made available for MNRTF-funded development projects from a maximum of 25% to a minimum of 25% would allow the MNRTF Board to recommend, and the legislature to appropriate, more funding for projects than may currently be spent. A total of $86.0 million was made available for project funding in FY 2017-18, and all 34 acquisition applicants received grants totaling $28.9 million. However, only 97 of 121 development applicants received a grant since development awards were capped at $21.5 million (25% of the $86.0 million made available) though development applications totaled $29.0 million. Changing the development project funding ceiling of 25% to a floor of 25% would match the restriction on acquisition projects and provide for all development applications to be appropriated in a given year if recommended by the MNRTF Board.

Legislative Analysis, House Fiscal Agency, December 2018

There have been some misleading claims made that this change reduces land acquisitions, but as the above example, that is simply not the case. All of the recommended land acquisition and park/trail development grants could have been awarded that round. Instead, $7.5 million in funding for parks and trails was not available due to that 25% maximum limit.

We should add that the proposed change is especially beneficial to Detroit where land acquisition is less of a necessity compared to the funding needs for developing parks and trails.

The other major impact is more long term. When the Trust Fund hit its $500 million cap in 2011, oil, gas, and mining royalties started going to the State Parks Endowment. When that endowment hits its $800 million cap (still some years away), those royalties will go to the state’s general fund. If this proposal passes, they’ll go back into the Trust Fund instead, making even more funding available for land acquisition and park/trail development in Michigan.

Based on our in depth review of the ballot language, the current constitutional language, and our experience with the grant program, we see every reason to support ballot proposal 1.

Categories
Newsletter

News from the Trail – September 2020

Detroit Bike Tours

Last month we helped support Council members Scott Benson and Roy McCalister Jr. as they hosted three casual bike tours. The purpose of the rides was “to demonstrate to council members, other elected officials, and the city’s, and region’s transportation decision makers how bicycle lanes keep Detroiters safe.” These tours were also an opportunity to talk about traffic calming in the neighborhoods and green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). 

The rides began in Detroit’s Avenue of Fashion on Livernois, traveled north through Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge and back to Detroit. A highlight was having Ferndale Mayor Melanie Piana talk about how the bike lanes have helped attract new business to Livernois while providing a safe family-friendly travel option for residents to get those businesses. 

Other highlights:

  • The Alliance for the Great Lakes held a well-attended pre-tour event to discuss the new Livernois GSI and how stormwater will be managed in the bioswales. 
  • Representatives from Wayne County attended one of the tours and there was a initial discussion on improving Wayne County Roads for biking in Detroit, specifically E. Outer Drive. We are now looking at grant to help move this project forward.

More information on these tours (and more photos) are on our website and on Fox 2 Detroit.


Connecting the Rouge

Speaking of Wayne County, they are also working to extend the Rouge River Gateway Greenway. That trail currently connects Hines Drive to Michigan Avenue (near Andiamo’s). The long term plan is to extend that trail to the Detroit River. A new trail segment behind Greenfield Village is being designed now. 

How can you get involved? They have a short survey online to collect input on your trail use. There’s also a virtual community meeting planned for September 16th at 6pm. Information on how to join the meeting will be posted on the website prior to the 16th.

Meanwhile over in Rouge Park, the City of Detroit has added a two-way cycletrack along Spinozza Drive. They’ve also created this video to explain how it works. The design is very similar to the cycletrack in Palmer Park — which has apparently reduced speeding traffic. Vehicles used to regularly crash into the lightposts along this stretch of road, but none have done so since the cycletrack was installed. 

Also along the Rouge River, trail design work is underway at Rogell Park. The first community meeting is scheduled for September 23rd at 6:30pm. Watch for more forthcoming details on our Facebook and Twitter feeds.


Breaking News

All three of these issues are ongoing. This is what we know currently, so stay tuned for future updates.

  • Bike lane removals — Bike lanes on E. Grand Boulevard were removed during a recent repaving. After some research, we learned the city had a new policy of removing non-separated bike lanes when roads were repaved. This makes no sense to us as it makes roads less safe for all users to no ones benefit. Also, there was no community engagement on this in advance.  We’ve asked the Department of Public Works to rescind this policy. Council member Benson has also gotten involved.
  • Speed limit legislation — State Representative Bradley Slagh (R-Zeeland/Holland) is sponsoring a bill (HB 4733) that would clarify the flexibility in setting speed limits. Rather than strictly set speed limits based on the 85th fasted motorist under ideal road conditions, road agencies could use best engineering/safety practices and take into account road design, land use (e.g. nearby parks), pedestrian and bicyclist activity, crash history, etc. Without this flexibility, many main roads in Detroit could see higher speed limits due to the prevalence of speeding. The original bill removed that flexibility on state and county roads. We opposed that and have proposed alternative language. 
  • I-375 replacement delayed — MDOT asked SEMCOG to pull construction funding from the I-375 Alternatives project and delay it to 2027. We oppose this delay as does the City of Detroit, who is having an ongoing discussion with the state on keeping this project moving forward as planned. It appears to us that the Michigan Avenue (in Corktown) reconstruction funding has jumped ahead of I-375. 

Other Updates

  • Last month, Governor Gretchen Whitmer approved $28 million in Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) grants. This included $2.7 million for the May Creek Greenway, $300,000 for a portion of a new 6-mile trail on Belle Isle, and $300,000 for a Perrien Park renovation (at Chene and E. Warren). 
  • We are also a member of the Vote Yes for MI Water, Wildlife & Parks Coalition. Together we are supporting a November ballot proposal that ensures continued grant funding from the MNRTF and strikes a better balance between funding development and acquisition projects. Currently 75% of the grant funding is only for land acquisition (which Detroit typically doesn’t need to do.) If the proposal passes, a minimum of 25% would go towards acquisition and a minimum of 25% for development. 
  • We are also a supporting organization for the national Greenway Stimulus campaign, a call for a $10 billion federal infrastructure investment in regional trails and greenways to spur strong economic recovery and a healthy, equitable future.
  • The Great American Outdoors Act was signed into law last month, providing $900 million in permanent and dedicated annual funding for the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and funding to address the backlog of maintenance projects in our national parks and public lands. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy says, this bill is “considered by many to be the most impactful legislation for parks and the outdoors in decades.” The City of Detroit has a long history of using LWCF grant funding to improve its parks.
  • Speaking of grants, the City of Detroit received a Streets for Pandemic Response & Recovery grant from NACTO. This grant is to help “temporarily close streets near neighborhood schools and parks in Springwells, Warrendale, and northwest Detroit to create outdoor community hubs for young people and other residents. These partners will each program their own spaces tailored to the needs of the specific community where they are based, focusing on creating outdoor learning space, providing childcare, hosting enrichment activities, and creating street art.”
  • A new warehouse could replace the former Cadillac Stamping Plant along the Conner Creek Greenway/Iron Belle Trail, just south of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Airport. We’re involved because we don’t want truck traffic negatively impacting the trail. We also see this as an opportunity to replace an unused parking lot (circled in red) along the greenway with GSI and green buffering. While greenways are often viewed from a recreational standpoint, this trail could be a great option for local employees who chose to bike or walk to work.
  • The City of Detroit’s Joseph Campau resurfacing project includes a two-way cycletrack as part of the Joe Louis Greenway. It originally ran from the City of Hamtramck to the Davison Freeway, but that’s now been extended to McNichols. This project should be completed this year.

Additional Reading & Listening

Categories
Greenways

Governor approves Beltline Greenway funding & more

Beltline GreenwayGovernor Rick Snyder signed the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund appropriations bill today — St. Patrick’s Day — which spreads a bit-o-green around the state.

Included in the bill is $2 million in land acquisition funding to buy property within Wayne County in order to complete gaps in the cross-state Iron Belle Trail.

One of those gaps is the Beltline Greenway in Detroit. This conceptual path was part of the GREEN non-motorized planning for the lower eastside. The community recognized it as a priority connection.

The greenway would follow a former railroad called the Beltline that connected the Uniroyal Site on the RiverWalk and headed north to the Gleaner’s Community Food Bank and beyond. It actually goes under E. Jefferson Avenue. The city rebuilt this bridge last year in anticipation of the greenway.

For the Iron Belle Trail, the routing goes from the RiverWalk to Kercheval, shown as the purple line on the map graphic.

Conrail no longer owns this railroad property. The DEGC owns the property south of Jefferson while it’s in private hands to the north. With this funding, the DNR will have conversations with these private property owners about purchasing land to create the trail.

Of course additional funding is needed to design, build, and endow a maintenance/operations fund, but this is a major step forward.