If we’ve learned anything during the pandemic it is how important parks and trails are to all of our lives. And while the explosion in their use has been especially pronounced over the past two years, the truth of the matter is that growth in visitation is well evidenced over the past decade.
In fact, Minnesota State Parks’ annual entrance pass sales increased 32% between 2010 and 2019 before skyrocketing 79% during the first year of COVID. This same trend in growth is reflected in visitation data throughout the nation whether we are talking about Twin Cities metropolitan regional parks, state parks in other parts of the country, or national parks.
Obviously, you don’t need me to tell you how popular our parks and trails have become. You likely hear about it all the time. I share this information with you because the dirty little secret here in Minnesota is that our investment in state parks and trails has not kept pace with increased demands, a growing population and an aging system.
With a November 2021 budget forecast predicting a $7.746 billion budget surplus for the biennium, knowledge that federal infrastructure funding will be flowing into the state, and lawmakers actively working to pass a bonding bill this session, Minnesota has a historic opportunity to invest in the public places most heavily used and in the highest demand – our parks and trails.
Thanks to your support, we will be working extremely hard this session to urge lawmakers to meet the moment and align public investment in parks and trails with how heavily used and beloved these special places our to Minnesotans and to all those from around the world who visit us.
For more information on the investments we will be seeking for parks and trails at all levels as well as information on our other legislative priorities, please see pages 6-7 of our latest newsletter.
Brett Feldman President, Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota