By Mike Tegeder, president
A teaching of the Great Law of Peace of the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy) mandates that chiefs consider the impact of their decisions on the seventh generation yet to come. As the Parks & Trails Council gratefully celebrates 60 years of “acquiring, protecting and enhancing critical land for the public’s use and benefit,” this principle can guide us in our essential work. As we rightfully have much to celebrate, it is also good to look ahead 60 years and beyond to the seventh generation.
Looking forward, a phrase credited to the nineteenth century French sociologist August Comte, “demography is destiny,” comes to mind. Minnesota is a place of coming together, where the great waters—the Mississippi, the Minnesota and the St. Croix Rivers—join, where the prairies and the big woods meet. But even more it is where people come together. Historically there were the Dakota, the Ojibwe, and the Hochunk. Then came the French, the Scots, and so many more from Europe. We cannot forget those descended from people taken here against their will. And now we are blessed with those from Southeast Asia, Mexico and Latin America, and freely coming from Africa.
The parks are meant for all. As the late P&TC member Roy Meyer titled his definitive book on our state parks, the parks truly are, “everyone’s country estate.” Our state’s latest chapter of diversity is a real opportunity. There are concerns that parks and trails are under used by our immigrant groups and communities of color. The DNR is making a great effort here with programs like the “I Can!” Series, such as “I Can Camp!” an overnight program for families who never camped before. Such innovations are exciting. P&TC has to be part of this outreach.
There is the unfortunate reality that public financial stresses today along with sometimes-complacent attitudes are headwinds. But we have to take heart that Minnesotans, in the Legacy Amendment, voted to tax themselves to invest in our world-class system of parks and trails. People have a passion for the parks and trails. They need good information. P&TC research and policy specialist, Andrew Oftedal, is doing just that, bringing out data showing the connections with tourism and public health.
And then there are generational issues. Members of the “greatest generation,” as Tom Brokaw memorably called them, have left us a great heritage. Many of us boomers have grown up taking the parks for granted. Many of this generation have been deeply involved in the more recent growth of our state trail system. As the boomers age there is the expectation that they will age actively. There may not be so many BWCAW type trips but the less strenuous parks and trails will beckon ever more. And the torch is being passed to Gen X and the Millennials. It is great to see them taking leadership in P&TC. They will be essential to the next 60 years.
Finally we have to get the word out about our great system of parks and trails. Communication is essential. P&TC staff and members of the outreach committee are moving us into social media. It is exciting. This also gives me the opportunity to say a word of appreciation for this publication. Dave Simpkins and Minnesota Trails Magazine will continue to be vital as we look to the future. The online features of the magazine are wonderful.
Ad multos annos, to many more years, P&TC, even to the seventh generation.