Michigan's state parks and recreation areas have won the 2011 National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) Gold Medal for the top state park system in the nation.
Michigan was named one of four finalists in May, and beat North Carolina, Florida and Missouri for the top honor.
"This award is a credit to the people of Michigan," said Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who recently appointed a panel to guide the parks system into the future.
"For more than 90 years, Michiganders have realized that these unique areas are an integral part of the cultural enhancement, economic enrichment and overall quality of life that we value. Our parks are what we make of them, and the people of this state clearly prize these treasures."
The Gold Medal Award honors communities throughout the United States that demonstrate excellence in long-range planning, resource management and agency recognition. Each agency is judged on its ability to address the needs of those it serves through the collective energies of citizens, staff and elected officials.
"We are very proud to receive this award, and I want to recognize the employees of the Parks and Recreation Division who have worked hard to make sure our 99 state parks and recreation areas remain excellent places for our citizens and visitors to experience Michigan's abundant and amazing natural resources," said Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Rodney Stokes.
"This is the result of teamwork, talent and vision that is aimed at protecting our special places, and also making sure that visitors have an enjoyable, high-quality experience."
In its winning application, the DNR focused on innovation, such as the Recreation Passport, which is the new funding model for state parks and outdoor recreation in Michigan. The $10 optional fee that Michigan residents can pay when renewing their vehicle registration at the Secretary of State gives them annual access to all Michigan state parks and boating access sites and also supports state forest recreation programs. A portion of the funding also supports a grant program for local parks.
Michigan is home to 99 state parks and recreation areas, offering visitors more than 13,000 campsites, trails, access to inland lakes, rivers and the Great Lakes.
For more information on state parks in Michigan, go to www.michigan.gov/stateparks .