Minnesota State Capitol

Parks & Trails Legislative News

After a flurry of activity, lawmakers are entering the final stages of the legislative process. The House and Senate presented their budget proposals to Gov. Dayton earlier this week, and now the three sides are working towards agreement on overall spending goals for each area of state government. Those negotiations, which will continue over the weekend, will ultimately decide the budget for Minnesota’s parks and trails for the next two years.

State Parks and Trails Budget:

Gov. Dayton needs to hear from you: His budget offers a better path forward for parks and trails

The last few weeks we’ve been outlining our concerns with the state parks and trails budget proposed by the House and Senate (HF 888). Their budget does contain some good provisions (such as funding local grant programs for parks and trails), but overall is a big step backwards for Minnesota State Parks and Trails. Our concerns are threefold:

  • First, HF 888 cuts the state parks and trails general fund appropriation from $27.4 million to $24.4 million per year. When the state has a $1.6 billion surplus, we think this cut is foolish and doesn’t recognize the general benefit parks and trails bring to Minnesotans and their communities.
  • Second, HF 888 increases state park entrance fees 40% (from $5 to $7 for a daily pass and from $25 to $35 for an annual pass) in an effort to make up for a 10% general fund cut. User fees have long been part of the state park funding mix, but they shouldn’t be used as a way to cut general fund support. HF 888 would make Minnesota State Parks the most expensive in the Upper Midwest, despite Minnesotans having already voted to tax themselves for parks and trails through the Legacy Amendment so that user fees could be held in check.
  • Third, the overall spending provided by HF 888 underfunds parks and trails, so much so that it would force the DNR to make cutbacks. If passed, the DNR estimates up to 20 park and trail employees could lose their jobs, and park and trail operating seasons, services, and maintenance would all be reduced.

In short, if HF 888 becomes law in its current form, you’ll be paying more for less; it would cost more to enter parks, even though fewer services would be offered.

Take Action: Many of our members have already contacted their legislators and expressed their concerns on HF 888. Now, we urge you to reach out to Gov. Dayton, thank him for his vision for parks and trails, and tell him to stay strong on his proposed state parks and trails budget. In contrast to the House and Senate plan to cut general funds to parks and trails despite the $1.6 billion surplus, the governor’s plan would increase the general fund appropriation for parks and trails.

Bonding Bill:

Minnesota House bonding proposal leaves parks and trails neglected

Earlier this week the House released a $600 million bonding proposal. It is not good for parks and trails. The House bill only includes $15 million for renovation and rehabilitation projects across all DNR departments (of which parks and trails are just one) and wouldn’t fund any additional park and trail projects. In contrast, the Senate and Governor have proposed more robust bonding bills for parks and trails.

Parks & Trails Council is continuing to talk with lawmakers on the importance of bonding for both taking care of the parks and trails we already have and developing new park and trail opportunities so more Minnesotans can experience the outdoors. If you haven’t recently urged your local legislators to support your park or trail project, they need to hear from you.

We expect bonding bill negotiations will continue until the last minute of session. The legislature must adjourn by May 22.

As always, Parks & Trails Council will be working hard at the Capitol on behalf of Minnesota’s special places. We’ll keep you informed as news develops. Please contact us with questions or concerns.

About Andrew Oftedal