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.
GMPT held its second quarterly meeting on August 17th, 2016. This full-membership meeting focused on a legislative session wrap-up and discussions surrounding development of next year’s GMPT legislative policy and agenda.
GMPT’s legislative affairs consultant, Elizabeth Wefel, was present to discuss 2016’s legislative activity. She noted that much of the past year’s activity focused on the GMPT’s request for $5 million in bonding funds for the Local Trail Connections and Outdoor Recreation grant programs. Wefel noted that many members had adopted resolutions in support of the bonding request, which was very important in terms of a show of support, even though the Legislature failed to pass a bonding bill this session. In addition, GMPT spent a good deal of time during the legislative session playing defense, continuing to protect funding for Greater Minnesota parks and trails and guarding against restrictions on funding, such as limiting eminent domain or requiring permission.
At the meeting, GMPT Legislative Chair Laird Mork and Vice President Ted Suss talked about the importance of regular communication with legislators. The need to build a connection with local legislators was stressed, as opening the lines of communication is critical to lobbying efforts. We encourage members to look at this helpful handout prepared for the meeting – “Laying the Groundwork for Success: Building Relationships with Legislators and Local Officials” on GMPT’s website and start building those relationships!
The ITV meeting was then followed by a district-specific meeting at each location. Members were able to network more informally, discussing topics relevant to each geographic area. In each district, Commissioners of the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks & Trails Commission (GMRPTC) were present, along with members of each District Planning Committee (DPC). Commissioners again noted the difference between GMPT and the GMRPTC, with GMPT promoting legislative support, funding opportunities, and networking for parks and trails throughout Greater Minnesota. The GMRPTC was formed in 2013 by the Minnesota Legislature to develop a statewide system of regionally significant parks and trails outside the seven-county metropolitan area.
Commission and DPC representatives also answered questions about this year’s Legacy designation process and individual district strategies. Commissioners encouraged GMPT members to contact them at any time with questions on the application, designation and funding process.
There was a good deal of positive feedback on the August meeting format, both in terms of having a single location in each district and having a secondary district-specific meeting after the full membership meeting. As such, this format will likely be adopted for future quarterly ITV meetings. The next full membership meeting is scheduled for Oct. 19 at the Monticello Community Center.