May 3, 2021
By Mike Kruzman / [email protected]
The Director of Metroparks recently made a presentation to the Council of Commissioners on the economic benefits they bring, with concerns about their finances coming from the Chairman of the Council.
Amy McMillian, Director of Huron Clinton Metroparks, presented her annual report last week on the benefits the 13-park system brings to their supportive communities. In normal years, the parks attract 7 million visitors, but through the pandemic they have seen the number of cars increase by 28%, which she says surprised and thrilled them. Golf is up 125% with increased use of disc golf courses. McMillan said the Metroparks brought in $ 90 million in direct value to the 5-county area, improved residents’ health and property values, and lowered health care costs. Their tree canopies also contribute to pollution and stormwater drainage.
McMillan said about 80% of the area’s residents are familiar with Metroparks and Kensington is still the best known.
Following his presentation, the Chair of the Council of Commissioners, Wes Nakagiri, raised concerns about their finances, especially their diversity, equity and inclusion programs. He said that while no money had been spent on it in 2019, it had risen to $ 187,000 in 2020 and the projected budget for 2021 was asking for around $ 481,000. Nakagiri criticized the fact that taxpayer money is flowing there, saying, “It’s a program that different people are going to have different opinions on about it. I am concerned about this program because, in large part, I believe it is a division of our nation by race. When we have a program that emphasizes white privilege and suggests that whites are racist in this society… systemically racist, that gives me a big problem. And spending taxpayer money that should be politically spent on recreation bothers me. ”
During his presentation, McMillan noted that one area that Livingston County has benefited from in terms of equity was that the Metroparks were investing through the library network to provide hot spots for children without internet access. Nakagiri was also concerned about an almost 10% increase in income over the past 5 years, but spending up 18%. McMillan said their fund balance increased significantly over his three years there, and expenses increased because they were using their unallocated fund balance as a savings account for capital projects. Several projects would have been delayed a few years ago due to declining revenues, but have become a possibility again in the past three years.
When asked about Nakagiri’s criticisms afterwards, McMillan told WHMI: “While there is still a lot of work to be done, I am very proud of the work we are doing to make Metroparks a more diverse, inclusive and equitable organization. “Adding that they” work hard every day to provide the best outdoor education and recreation experiences for residents of Southeast Michigan and to be excellent stewards of the nearly 25,000 acres of entrusted natural resources. to our care. We are devoting all of our resources to this effort and are proud of the results we are achieving, including securing grants to leverage taxpayer dollars and providing the economic benefits to the region which are cited in the Trust’s report. for Public Land.
Additional details on Huron-Clinton Metroparks DCI programming can be found by clicking here.