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March 11, 2016
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Parks & Trails Primer on the 2016 Legislative Session

Minnesota lawmakers returned to St. Paul on Tuesday for what is sure to be a full yet speedy legislative session. Legislators have less then three months to work on a laundry list of issues, including passing a capital investment bonding bill, deciding how to spend (or save) a $900 million budget surplus, agreeing on tax policy, and transportation funding. Most importantly for parks and trails is the bonding bill, which we hope will fund much needed rehabilitation and development projects across Minnesota’s park and trail system.

This year marks 125 years since Itasca was established as Minnesota’s first state park. After being well loved for five generations, many of our parks are now looking their age and are in need of renewal. We can’t think of a better 125th birthday present than a bonding package that renews our parks and trails and builds upon past investments. You can read about our 2016 legislative priorities in our legislative agenda.

Parks & Trails Council has already begun meeting with legislators and the governor’s office, but our voice is stronger when joined with yours. The first committee deadline for legislation is only three weeks away, and it’s never too early to reach out to your legislators and ask them to support parks and trails in this year’s bonding bill.

While many of Minnesota’s parks and trails are showing their age, many others remain undeveloped. Funding is needed to both take care of what we have and create more outdoor recreation opportunities for Minnesota’s growing and diversifying population. Parks & Trails Council is advocating for a $105 million bonding package for parks trails. The majority of funds ($57.5 million) are for rehabilitating important park roads, buildings, campgrounds, trails, natural resources and other amenities. About a quarter of the funds ($27.7 million) are for new acquisitions and development, including Lake Vermilion and portions of 11 state trails. And the final quarter would be used for regional parks and trails.

Bonding has long been an important funding source for Minnesota’s parks and trails (Click here for a review of past investments in parks and trails). Parks & Trails Council will be at the capitol every step of the way in 2016 working to build upon these past investments, and keeping tabs on any other important parks and trail issues that arise. You can keep track of the 2016 legislative session by using our bill tracker.