Bills seek investment in state parks and trails
Bills calling for a major boost in funding state park and trails investments are being offered in St. Paul. Last week, Assistant House Majority Leader Frank Moe, DFL-Bemidji, authored a bill for $9 million in funding the operation and maintenance...
Bills calling for a major boost in funding state park and trails investments are being offered in St. Paul.
Last week, Assistant House Majority Leader Frank Moe, DFL-Bemidji, authored a bill for $9 million in funding the operation and maintenance investments of parks and trails.
A similar Senate version will be introduced Monday, and includes as one of five co-authors Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji, said Brett Feldman, spokesman for the Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota.
Recently, parks and trails supporters from around the state held a day at the State Capitol to encourage the legislation, which offers $5 million for state park and recreation areas and $4 million for state trails.
"Minnesotans treasure our parks and trails because they are essential to our tourism economy and our outdoor way of life," said Moe, chief author. "My colleagues understand that it is a shared Minnesota value to be responsible stewards of our great outdoors and that now is the time to make necessary and smart investments in our parks and trails."
State conservation spending that has made Minnesota's parks and trails the envy of the nation has dropped to its lowest level in 30 years, resulting in the loss of all seasonal state park naturalist programming, delaying routine maintenance on trails and in parks and dramatically reducing visitor center hours and camping opportunities - even during peak seasons, says the Parks & Trails Council.
With 1.2 million more people expected to make Minnesota home in the next 25 years, even greater pressure will be placed on state parks, trails, waterways, wildlife habitat and natural areas, it notes.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty, in his budget request, provides an annual increase of $500,000 in fiscal 2008 and $750,000 in fiscal 2009 for the state Department of Natural Resources parks account to fund parks operations. The increase would provide funds for maintenance and visitor services.
In trails, the Republican governor recommends $1.4 million over the two-year budget for snowmobile grants-in-aid for developing and maintaining snowmobile trails.
Moe's bill would appropriate $5 million from the general fund to the DNR for state park and recreation area operations.
"The money may be used for increasing visitor services such as naturalist programming, increasing cross country ski trail grooming, and extending hours at Minnesota state park visitor centers," states the bill, as well as providing for natural resource management, operation and maintenance of state forest campgrounds and increasing marketing efforts.
It provides $4 million from general funds to the DNR for state trail operations and maintenance.
"The money may be used for trail maintenance, providing for interpretation, signage, mapping and natural resource management, and the maintenance of non-motorized forest trails," states the bill.
Feldman said the appropriations are blanket amounts, and are not targeted to specific parks or trails.
"Minnesota's parks and trails provide access to our state's most outstanding natural, cultural and scenic resources," said Sen. Gary Kubly, chief author of the Senate bill. "At a time when health experts are placing increased emphasis on physical fitness, parks and trails provide ideal opportunities for active and healthy living."
The Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota, a 53-year-old grassroots membership organization, has been leading the charge for park and trail investments at all levels of government.
"We have heard the message loud and clear from residents throughout the state that we need to increase visitor services like naturalist programming, extend visitor center hours and camping opportunities and deepen our commitment to operating and protecting a rapidly growing trail system that has become a national model," said Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota Executive Director Dorian Grilley.
Also joining onto a long list of House sponsors are Reps. Larry Howes, R-Walker, and Brita Sailer, DFL-Park Rapids.