Parks, trails groups reach consensus on funding
Three leading Minnesota parks and trails providers have developed consensus allocation recommendations for Parks and Trails Legacy Funds for the fiscal 2014-2015 biennial budget. The work group was recommended by the Legislature as a way to guide investments into Minnesota's parks and trails, helping resolve a much debated issue at the Capitol.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner Tom Landwehr, Metropolitan Council Chair Susan Haigh, and Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Coalition Chairman Al Lieffort submitted the recommendations to Gov. Mark Dayton, asking him to include them in his proposed biennial budget to the Legislature early next year.
"The consensus recommendation was jointly developed by a group of people who represent park and trail interests across the Twin Cities and the state," Landwehr said. "In this time when compromise can be difficult to find, the consensus of this group is a testament to how government should aspire to work - putting aside narrow interests and working together for the good of all Minnesotans and the quality of life we enjoy here."
Haigh agreed, adding that "the consensus recommendation offers us a path forward, to build a better state and regional park and trail system throughout Minnesota. It moves us beyond what have been very challenging past discussions. This is a big win for all of Minnesota's outdoors enthusiasts."
The recommendations were developed by a legislatively authorized work group made up of nine representatives from metropolitan regional parks and trails appointed by the Metropolitan Council, the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Coalition, and DNR.
The recommendations are rooted in the distribution of Minnesota's population and the traditional role of Minnesota's state and regional park and trail system. Environmental Initiative, a nonprofit organization based in Minneapolis, was hired to facilitate the process.
The recommendations are the culmination of more than six months of discussion. They create an interim agreement for fiscal years 2014-19 that includes:
A fund to encourage continued coordination among park and trail providers, and a five-year fund to support capacity-building throughout Minnesota.
A framework to allocate funds as follows:
- 40 percent for DNR.
- 40 percent for metropolitan regional park and trail providers.
- 20 percent for Greater Minnesota regional park and trail providers.
Draft criteria and a process for future allocations, beyond the interim agreement.
Lieffort called the agreement a significant achievement for all Minnesotans. "It honors the cooperative spirit of the original Legacy Amendment," he said. "Members of the Greater Minnesota coalition are committed to working with the governor and parks and trails leadership throughout Minnesota to encourage all parks and trails providers to get behind this consensus recommendation."
The Parks and Trails Legacy Fund supports state parks and trails and regional parks and trails in the seven county metropolitan area and across Minnesota.
Activities include land acquisition, new development, connecting people to the outdoors, and taking care of existing park and trail infrastructure. The work group report can be downloaded from the Environmental Initiative website at www.environmental-initiative.org.