State House votes to fund Luther park

LANSING – Members of Michigan’s House of Representatives have passed legislation that would provide nearly $40 million for natural resources projects, including Mill Pond Park in Luther.

House bill 5364 would “appropriate $39.6 million from the state Natural Resources Trust Fund for various land acquisitions and recreation projects.”

The Natural Resources Trust Fund is a “program to provide a source of funding for the public acquisition of lands for resource protection and public outdoor recreation,” according to the Department of Natural Resources.

All revenues from this fund come from royalties derived from the sale and leasing of state-owned mineral rights and no tax-payers dollars are used to fund the program.

The state constitution mandates that those funds be spent only on DNR projects, with at least 25 percent going to land acqusition and 25 percent to fund projects that would be developmental, according to the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Eileen Kowall, R-White Lake Township.

The bill passed with wide bi-partisan support by a count of 98-11. All 47 House Democrats voted yes, while 11 House Republicans voted no.

The bill would fund 77 developmental and 22 land acquisition projects.

Mill Pond Park in Luther will receive $84,300 from the trust fund for “development to trail system, fishing pier, educational interpretive garden and updates to existing parking lot and basketball court,” according to the House Fiscal agency.

The (village of Luther/Lake County) will also contribute $32,000 to the project.

Local governments applied for the grants to the DNR Trust Fund Board and 99 were recommended to the legislature for approval.

State Rep. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo, chairman of the House DNR Approriations Subcommittee, thinks the program is something that can benefit local municipalities who apply for it in the future.

“This program is a great tool to enhance our park system and I encourage other communities to consider applying in the future,” he said in a statement.

“Rep. Bumstead is a big supporter of the DNR Trust Fund,” said Adam Wright, legislative director for Bumstead. “He supported all the recommendations of the DNR Trust Fund Board and it worked out well for us because one of them is in Lake County.”

Luther Village Council President Scott Lucas said the grant money is much needed help for the park.

“We have a pavillion that’s really outdated, but still usable,” Lucas said. “We also have a basketball court, but water runs all over it when it rains. It’s really going to help out.”

The bill was introduced on the floor of the state Senate on March 22.

Kowall believes that the bill should pass the state Senate with no problem but thinks that the state can work to improve the program.

“We just need to work with the DNR and the Trust Fund Board to establish some parameters,” Kowall said.