prairie grass
Group picture with Rep. Nils Pierson.
March 5, 2019
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Chester Woods Trail Group Builds Relationships with Elected Officials

Over the years, the Chester Woods Trail Group has recognized the value of building and maintaining relationships with elected officials.

Working with State Legislators

When the group came together back in the mid-90s, they started connecting with their state representatives. One recommendation from their representatives was to attend Parks & Trails Council’s Day on the Hill event. This event deepened their relationship with their elected officials as well as with P&TC leadership and statewide park and trail initiatives. As the group members learned more about the legislative process and were able to regularly meet with their representatives, a strong foundation of positive relationships was built.

Each year, the Chester Woods Trail Group typically sends a number of folks to the Day on the Hill event. They join the morning discussions and learn from the presentations about park and trail issues happening at the legislature during that session. Then, in the afternoon, they attend meetings with their representatives and senators to discuss any tasks and provide an update on the long-term trail development. Additionally, the group will schedule appointments with other legislators in the Southeast Minnesota region as well as leadership in certain committees where particular bills are headed.

Group picture with Sen. Dave Senjem
Chester Woods Trail Group meets with Senator Dave Senjem.
Group picture with Rep. Greg Davids
Chester Woods Trail Group meets with Rep. Greg Davids
Members from the Chester Woods Trail Group pose from a group picture with Senator Carla Nelson.
Chester Woods Trail Group meets with Senator Carla Nelson.
Chester Woods Trail fact sheet

Click to view.

After that busy day at the Capitol, the group will send followup thank you notes and continued updates to the leaders they met with. See an example of the one-page update they used in 2018 to keep their supporters and elected officials in the loop about what was happening with the trail.

In addition to meeting with their state legislators at the Capitol during the session, the Chester Woods Trail Group also invites them to join one of their group meetings each year. This alternative setting, on location in their representative’s district, is an important touchpoint when the legislature is not in session.

Finally, one other tool that has proven helpful in building their relationships with state elected officials was to get on the senate bonding tour.

A group picture of trail group members and senators

Chester Woods Trail Group meets with senators during a senate bonding tour in 2018.

Working with County and City Elected Officials

The Chester Woods Trail Group also engages with elected officials at the county and city level. The group attends a county board meeting every few years to make sure they remain in the loop. Additionally, the group has a strong connection with the City of Eyota (as the group functions as a Economic Development Authority under the City of Eyota), so attending a city council meeting each year has been a great way to touch base and provide updates.

Keeping the conversation going is key

Each time the group meets with an elected official, there are a number of things they like to discuss.

  • First, if the leader is not familiar with the project, the conversation starts with a brief history and overview of the project.
  • If that representative is familiar with the project, the group shares information about recent developments with the project.
  • They are clear about what funding has been received in the past and what the money has been used for.
  • The group describes what the project and trail development means to them and their communities.
  • They ask the elected official for continued support, either in general or with a specific request like supporting a particular bill.
  • Finally, the group offers thanks for past and current support in helping the trail development move forward.

“The one-on-one meetings are so important.” – Jeff St. Mane

The opportunity to have face-to-face meetings with elected officials has been key for the Chester Woods Trail Group. They will continue to keep their elected officials in the loop by arranging meetings and sending email updates.

The group’s steadfast commitment to interacting with elected officials has been a huge support in securing funding for the trail—most recently $2.5 million of bonding money from the 2018 legislative session to install pavement for the trail from Rochester to Chester Woods Park. They will continue updating their representatives on the progress of this phase of trail development and start discussions about what is next!

Chester Woods Trail map showing FY18 funding project.
Chester Woods Trail map showing FY18 funding project.

Content contributed by: Jeff St. Mane, Chester Woods Trail Group

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