Minnesota State Capitol
October 29, 2020

Bonding bill passes, key parks and trails projects funded

Minnesota’s Legislative Session was unprecedented, which is to say, it fit perfectly into the year 2020. For most of the year, the much anticipated bonding bill was stalled. It didn’t get passed in regular session (Feb – May), nor in the June, July, August, or September special sessions. Then, finally, in October, during the fifth special session, the House and Senate passed a massive, $1.9 billion bonding bill, which was signed by Gov. Walz on Oct. 22. The bill funds a wide variety of items from roads, affordable housing, and college buildings to parks and trails projects.

Status of priorities at end of 5th and final special session

Some funds to fix critical infrastructure at state parks and trails

The bonding bill includes $20 million to fix critical infrastructure such as bridges, buildings, wastewater systems and more within DNR-managed lands (e.g., forestry, fish and wildlife, and parks and trails). This appropriation is far below Gov. Tim Walz’s request of $70 million and many important projects will have to be delayed.

icon of trail with crackNo bonds to accelerate state trail rehabilitation

Our bonding request for trail maintenance—based on our State of the Trails Report—was not heard in the Capital Investment Committees due to the Covid-19 pandemic and therefore was not included in the 2020 bonding bill. We will continue to advocate for increased trail maintenance funding next year.

icon of bird with music notesPortion of Lake Vermilion State Park opens to OHVs

The bonding bill includes language designating a portion of Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park as a “secondary unit” to be managed as a state recreation area. This bill specifically notes that within the secondary unit, which is located south of highway 169, the DNR must permit access by off-highway vehicles (e.g., ATVs) into campgrounds in that portion of the park. No such campground currently exists, but the bill also includes $5.8 million to build a campground in the park.

“Secondary units” are extremely rare, but are allowed under the Outdoor Recreation Act. While this change respects the letter of the law, we are concerned that “secondary units” could be used as a Trojan horse to allow OHVs in the middle of state parks or on trail corridors through state parks. We’ll remain vigilant and fight against any such efforts.

icon of bench and treeMetro Regional parks and trails partially funded, non-metro left out

We had advocated for a $4 million appropriation to fund grant programs that help cities and counties across Minnesota build and improve their park and trail facilities. Unfortunately, no funding was appropriated.

The bonding bill includes $5 million for grants to regional parks and trails in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area.

The following projects were funded

Park or Trail NameManaging EntityProject descriptionAmount
Blazing StarMnDNRTo complete the segment between the cities of Albert Lea and Hayward, connecting both cities to Myre-Big Island State Park.$1.74 million
Camp Ripley-VeteransMnDNRfor trail development.$1 million
HeartlandMnDNRProject 1: For land acquisition, final engineering, and design of the proposed trail segment between its current terminus at Becker County CSAH 10 and Trunk Highway 87 in Frazee, and for the construction of a trail bridge over Becker County CSAH 10.$2 million
HeartlandMnDNRProject 2: For final engineering and design of the trail segment located within Itasca State Park and for the construction of a trail tunnel under Hwy 71.$2 million
Lake BronsonMnDNRFor design, engineering, and construction to repair, reconstruct, or remove publicly owned dams and respond to dam safety emergencies on publicly owned dams. Of this appropriation, at least $18,000,000 is for the reconstruction of the Lake Bronson Dam in Lake Bronson State Park.$18 million of the $20 million total
Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground MineMnDNRFor the predesign, design, and construction of a campground and related infrastructure (see details above in the OHV section).$5.8 million
William O’BrienMnDNRFor the predesign, design, and construction of accessibility improvements.$3 million
City of ElyTo complete predesign, design, construction, furnishing, and equipping the trailhead facility with parking, visitor information, and restrooms for trail users on the west end of the city near marked Trunk Highway 169.$1.5 million
City of HastingsTo predesign, design, and construct a separate trail for pedestrian and bicycle users along the marked Trunk Highway 316 corridor in the city.$1.5 million
City of RogersTo acquire property for and to design and construct a pedestrian and bicycle bridge over marked Interstate Highway 94 approximately one mile northwest of the interchange at marked Trunk Highway 101. This appropriation includes money for construction of a bituminous trail to connect to the existing trail system.$2.2 million
City of ShakopeeTo acquire land or interests in land, predesign, design, engineer, and construct a pedestrian and bicycle overpass over marked Trunk Highway 169, and establish new trail segments, to connect the Southbridge neighborhood and Quarry Lake Park.$2 million
Lake LinksVarious cities around White Bear LakeFor grants to complete design and construction of a multiuse paved trail and route for pedestrians, bicycles, and wheelchairs around White Bear Lake in Ramsey and Washington Counties, as follows: (1) $2,600,000 of this appropriation is for a grant to the city of Dellwood in Washington County to design, engineer, construct, and equip trail improvements consistent with the completed preliminary engineering along or parallel with the shore of White Bear Lake between the Mahtomedi city limits and the western line of Washington County; (2) $500,000 of this appropriation is for a grant to White Bear Township in Ramsey County to design, engineer, construct, and equip trail improvements along and parallel with the shore of White Bear Lake between the Washington County line and the city limits of the city of White Bear Lake, Ramsey County; and (3) $500,000 of this appropriation is for a grant to the city of White Bear Lake in Ramsey County to design, engineer, construct, and equip trail improvements along or parallel with the shore of White Bear Lake between the eastern city limits of White Bear Lake and Pacific Avenue.$3.6 million
Mississippi RiverfrontCity of Winonato construct a paved trail from Levee Park to Lions Park along the Mississippi River in the city of Winona.$2 million
Mississippi River TrailCity of Minneapolis(a) To design and construct a trail connection paralleling the Mississippi River between 26th Avenue North and the Minneapolis Grand Rounds at Ole Olson Park, all within Above the Falls Regional Park. This appropriation is intended to augment work being completed by the city of Minneapolis to reconstruct and create a multimodal corridor beginning at Theodore Wirth Regional Park and extending east to the Mississippi River along 26th Avenue North. (b) All project lighting must follow the International Dark Sky Community Program guidelines, published June 2018, and follow best practices for bird-safe lighting. The height of any beacon light must comply with the Minneapolis shoreland overlay district ordinance governing height of structures. A beacon light must be off from March 15 to May 31 and August 15 to October 31 each year, and off between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. at all other times of the year. All lighting must be shielded and use bird-safe light colors.$3 million
OberstarPine CountyTo construct a 1.9-mile segment of the trail.$650,000
Perham to Pelican RapidsOttertail CountyFor the predesign and design of a trail segment located within Maplewood State Park.$375,000
Rice Creek NorthAnoka Countyfor trail segments in Circle Pines and Lino Lakes$500,000
City of Silver Bayto predesign, design, construct, furnish, and equip a multimodal trailhead center for the various hiking, bicycling, snowmobile, and all-terrain vehicle trails that converge in the area. The center includes separated trail access for motorized and nonmotorized users and open space for trail users, parking, a wayside rest area, and a new trailhead center building that includes lavatories and showers.$1.1 million
Veterans Memorial GreenwayDakota CountyTo construct improvements for the Greenway, including memorials, a community gathering space, and a new trail connection between Lebanon Hills Regional Park and the Mississippi River.$5 million
Battle CreekRamsey CountyTo design, construct, furnish, and equip a maintenance building for the Nordic ski competition and winter recreation area, including related earthwork and landscaping, and for a marker commemorating the Olympic accomplishments of Minnesotan Jessie Diggins, in Battle Creek Regional Park.$1.8 million
Bruce Vento Nature SanctuaryCity of St. PaulFor the Wakan Tipi Center project. The city may enter into a lease or management agreement under Minnesota Statutes, section 16A.695. This appropriation is added to the appropriation for the Nature Sanctuary Visitor Center.$1 million
CascadeCity of RochesterFor predesign, design, construct, furnish, and equip improvements of a capital nature, including a pavilion, an amphitheater, performance facilities, picnic shelters, restroom facilities, play areas, park access, and landscaping.$2.5 million
Lake WaconiaCarver CountyTo design, construct, and equip a waterfront pavilion with restrooms and a concession building, and to design, construct, and equip utility connections.$2.5 million
Mississippi GatewayThree Rivers Park DistrictTo predesign, design, and engineer improvements, and to construct a canopy walkway and playground development, pedestrian trail connections, landscape restoration and enhancements, and habitat restoration.$5 million

About Lisa Filter