In less than two weeks, the Minnesota Legislature will reconvene, and although the second half of the biennium is shorter, it will likely be another busy session. Because it is not a budget year, the Legislature will be focused primarily on the bonding bill and policy issues. For GMPT, we have several priorities for 2024. We would like to see more funding for the DNR’s local park and trails grant programs and will be pushing for the inclusion of such funds in the bonding bill.
On Friday, Gov. Walz announced the move to Phase 3 of reopening our great state. This is good news to many people and maybe a little frightening to others. As we continue to push on the doors, or gates if you are a parks person, to open we must remember that the comfort level of others might not be the same as ours and we need to be respectful of that. Executive Order 20-74 didn’t make many waves on the parks side of things, but it did allow for some new activities on the recreation side of life.
One of the largest impacts on our industry is the allowable size of group gatherings. Starting June 10, groups of up to 25 are now allowed to gather in an outdoor social setting while maintaining social distancing. You might have a small picnic shelter that can accommodate a group of this size or an amphitheater that could be utilized for a small wedding. As you begin to explore how you are going to work within the new guidelines, I encourage you to reach out to your community and be proactive. For those who might rent one of your facilities that can now be utilized, have them inform you of how they plan to adhere to the guidelines. You will be surprised at the creativity of people as they work within the standards.
Beaches and Pools
Everyone has been looking for an answer to opening public beaches. This will continue to be debated for quite some time, so we have no intention of telling you what to do. Our suggestion is to work with your local leadership to establish your process. However, we did find some information that you might find useful. On page 3, point number 7 of the Outdoor Guidance provided on the Stay Safe MN website, it states “Public and private beaches may be open subject to any restrictions by state, tribal or local authorities. If a beach is open, steps must be taken to maintain social distancing and limit the number of people using the area at one time.”
If you happen to operate a public pool, you now have something to work with. The new guidance will allow for you to open at 50% capacity. For more information on public pools check out the Reopening of the Public Swimming Pool and Aquatic Facilities.
The other industry gate that started to open for all the recreation leaders is organized sports and activities. Even though the “game” isn’t quite scheduled yet, our communities can start to participate in some of their favorite active pastimes again. To find the guidance on how these might look visit Stay Safe MN. You will find a tab for businesses and a separate tab for individuals. There is a lot of information, but look for the Organized Sports section and have fun rummaging.
The Dawn is Breaking
One of my favorite times in the day is just as the sun starts to break the horizon. Dawn is here. We are starting a new day with new hopes and new adventures. Sometimes new days bring trials, but we know that another day is coming and we can continue to look ahead at what might be instead of what has been. We encourage you to keep finding ways to connect. Keep findings ways to create. Most of important, keep finding ways to unite and encourage.
Parks & Recreation Operations Manager, Wright County Parks & Recreation
Board Member, Greater Minnesota Parks & Trails