As soon the 2014 legislative session closed at the end of May, parks and trails supporters began celebrating. On May 20, Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law the largest capital investment package for parks and trails since 2008, plus a bill that increased several agency operating budgets, including the DNR Division of Parks and Trails. Overall, over 31 park and trail projects — totalling $53.49 million — were included in the 2014 bonding bill.
Within this package were 11 trail projects that P&TC has been advocating for since 2008. “We were thrilled that these trail projects, which have been on hold for years will finally begin to be built,” said Brett Feldman, executive director of P&TC. Details on this year’s bonding bill (HF 2490), and past years, can be found at the bottom of this page.
Regrettably, one trail project—the Casey Jones State Trail—was cut from the bill during the final hours of negotiation despite the project’s strong merits and local support. P&TC plans to continue working with local groups, the DNR, and state legislators to develop Casey Jones, which was Minnesota’s first authorized state trail.
Lake Vermilion State Park received $14 million for its ongoing development. The park was acquired in 2008 yet still has very limited areas open to the public. Plans include developing a campground at Cable Bay, camper cabins, picnic areas, boat launches, Wi-Fi access, and a family adventure area.
In addition to these projects, the DNR received $10 million for asset preservation to be used for rehabilitation of current infrastructure. However, this amount was for all the DNR divisions (e.g., State Forests, Wildlife Management Areas, State Parks), and it is undecided how much if any will be spent on parks and trails. In addition, this $10 million is far below the DNR’s original request of $30.4 million for state parks and trails alone, which identified trail resurfacing projects and campground rehabilitations.
The Metropolitan system of regional parks and trails also received funding for several projects. And while greater Minnesota benefits from the numerous state projects, we were disappointed that the emerging system received funding for only two projects.
Overall, this year’s package increased bonding dollars for parks and trails by nearly 60% compared to the 2011-12 bonding cycle.