Home > Announcement, Economics, Parks and Recreation, Representing > Is Traverse City Willing To Fund Parkland Improvements?

Is Traverse City Willing To Fund Parkland Improvements?


Hull Park, behind the library.

Old Town resident Nate Elkins is passionate about parkland. Acting outside of his role as chair of the parks and recreation commission in Traverse City, he is circulating a petition to place on the November ballot a one-time draw from the City’s Brown Bridge Trust. This money is sourced from revenue from oil wells south of town. The principle is nearly $13 million.

Elkin’s idea is to withdraw $3,750,000 to be invested in 3rds on waterfront parks, neighborhood parks and the creation of an endowment to be used for future planning, improvements, and stewardship.

It is an idea that might just work.

If you’d like to support the effort by signing the petition or helping to collect signatures, send Elkins an email: idf@charter.net

The preamble to the petition is below.



City of Traverse City Grand Traverse County, MI

Background (Preamble)

As we begin to think of ways to propel Traverse City forward into the future, parks and the valuable public space they provide is one the answers. Parks have a proven track record to generate far more revenue then they cost to fund. In addition, they are a major attraction for tourism in Traverse City. While continuing to only fund maintenance and ignore capital planning and improvements may save money in the short-term, in the long run it risks undermining our greatest strength to maintain a high quality of life for residents, keeping our City viable by attracting entrepreneurs and jobs through the practice of making great places as well as opening new doors that provide imaginative outdoor spaces that encourage individual and community growth and development!

“In addition to real estate, tourism, and environmental benefits, parks also provide health, community or social, and “direct use” benefits -Center for City Park Excellence at The Trust for Public Land.

City spending and budgets continue to be trimmed and current levels of park funding continue to only provide a baseline for basic maintenance and upkeep. Traverse City neighborhood, waterfront and downtown parks are in need of valuable improvements – imagine new and innovative playground equipment, improved barrier-free and universal access, and designed public space amenities.

The City’s Brown Bridge Trust, created by revenue from oil wells on City parkland is a viable option to grow and sustain our parks. The principal of the Brown Bridge Trust has grown over the years and the interest has been transferred to the general fund annually to supplement City taxes; this would still be able to continue in addition to a one-time withdraw that would be used for planning, capital projects, and the development of a separate parks endowment fund that could be used specifically for parks.

Michigan State Statute Allows Us to Develop an Endowment Fund for Parks The Michigan Constitution prohibits the state from investing in private funds, but it provides an exception for endowment funds held for charitable or education purposes or other endowment funds “as provided by law.” (Mich Const, art 9, Sec 19) Before 2008, the law in Michigan did not allow local governments to invest in common stocks etc. BUT, in 2008, the Legislature adopted a statute that expressly allows cities to invest “a special revenue fund consisting of payments for park operations and maintenance” to the same extent a fund for retirees can be invested (which includes stocks etc). MCL 129.97a.

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