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GMPT Legislative Action Week was a success!

Thank you to everyone who participated in our Greater Minnesota Parks & Trails Legislative Action Week Feb. 14 – 18. This was an entirely new format from years past as we still deal with the impacts of COVID-19.

We started the week with a virtual kick-off meeting on Monday. We were fortunate to have DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen join us to provide updates on the DNR’s plans and investment into their infrastructure for the coming year. With the current state budget surplus, she said they are hopeful they will be able to address some deferred maintenance issues that are in dire need of attention. We are grateful Commissioner Strommen could join us and thankful for the good relationship we have with the DNR.

Renee Mattson, executive director of Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission, joined us as well. She informed our members about the current status of grant funding, including the small grant program for connecting people to the outdoors, and provided information about the current business of the Commission through their Strategic Plan. If you have not seen the Strategic Plan you can find it on their website, as well as a copy of their 2021 Policy and Planning Report.

The last piece of the Monday kick-off meeting was provided by lobbyist Elizabeth Wefel with Flaherty & Hood, who discussed lobbying techniques and tips. The past few years have presented some new challenges and 2022 is no different. You can find our Legislative Policies and Agenda, a quick guide for lobbying tips and tricks, and the handout for the DNR grant programs bonding request on our website. You will also find links to our 2022 legislation: HF 1039 (Murphy) / SF 513 (Ruud) for the DNR Grant Program Funding.

Throughout Legislative Action Week our members met with multiple legislators to discuss our funding request for the DNR grant programs. Some of those meetings were virtual and a few were in person. We were able to meet virtually with Sen. Sandy Pappas, Rep. Dean Urdahl, Sen. Ann Johnson Stewart, Rep. Greg Davids, and Rep. Kaela Berg. Each of these virtual meetings went well with a few of the legislators expressing that they will sign on to the bill and others agreeing to support the bill but not necessarily sign on. GMPT Chair Ben Anderson, Vice Chair Gina Hugo, Secretary Brad Harrington, and lobbyist Elizabeth Wefel also met in person with Sen. Gene Dornick and Sen. Tom Bakk. The meetings went well, with Sen. Dornick agreeing to meet with Sen. Carrie Ruud, who authored our bill, to discuss it further, and Sen. Bakk providing some good feedback and conversation around it. There was no commitment from Sen. Bakk, but the conversation was positive, and we were grateful to get a chance to meet with him as he is the chair of the Senate Capital Investment Committee.

Overall, Legislative Action Week was successful in its new format. Even though it went well, our work is not done. Be sure to keep an eye on your email as there might be action alerts or other requests that come out during the legislative session. Thank you to everyone who joined us and took the time to meet with legislators throughout the week. We are all excited about the future of parks and trails in Greater Minnesota!