The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says more than $4 million in grant funding will be awarded to 23 communities throughout the state to boost recreational boating.
The funding is made possible through the DNR Parks and Recreation Division's waterways grant program, which began in 1949 with the goal of expanding the harbor system along the Great Lakes and boating access sites throughout the state. Today, the system includes more than 1,300 state-sponsored boating access sites, 19 state-managed harbors and 63 local state-sponsored harbors of refuge along the Great Lakes.
"Water and boating are at the heart of Michigan," said Ron Olson, DNR Parks and Recreation Division chief. "We have residents who live on the water, those who travel all over the state to boat and visitors who come here from around the world because it's the Great Lakes State. Michigan offers outdoor recreational opportunities and picturesque views not found anywhere else, and so it's of utmost importance that the DNR helps invest and fund Michigan's harbors and boating access sites for the benefit of all."
“Boating access has always been a priority for our industry. Now, as more people are taking to the water its importance is elevated even higher,” said Nicki Polan, Executive Director of the Michigan Boating Industries Association. “Our focus is on positive experiences for all boaters, so they stay in boating. Long lines to launch and no place to park will not support positive experiences. The MDNR shares the goal of keeping the outdoor recreation market share we have gained through the pandemic, and it is good to see this support for access for the families boating in Michigan.”
In 2020, when lake levels were at record highs, many facilities had emergency needs. As a result, the waterways grant program was strongly focused on assisting communities that had emergency infrastructure needs. Fortunately, this year with lake levels receding, the grants have been able to focus on more typical infrastructure improvements.
“It is great to see the shift away from high water emergencies and back to building and maintaining boating access sites in Michigan with these 2021 grants,” added Polan. “Boating access is critical to our industry’s success, and the boating industry in Michigan is flourishing due to the state’s commitment to helping people in Michigan get on the water, even if they don’t live on the water.”