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.
Our ITV membership meeting on July 17 was a great success! More than 40 people attended between seven locations. Here are a few highlights:
- Treasurers Report. GMPT’s finances are in great shape with more than one year’s worth of expenses in reserve.
- Membership Committee. Our membership continues to grow. We’re now at 126 members, with 61 cities, 32 counties, and the remaining members made up of non-profits, individuals and businesses. The Membership Committee seeks help in targeting lapsed members: Aitkin County, Elk River, La Crescent, Martin County, Cottonwood and the White Earth Tribe. Any current members who are willing to help bring these members back into the organization should contact Steve Plaza and Elizabeth Wefel at email@example.com.
The membership committee is very active, but we could use a few new members to help us continue grow the organization. We’ll be meeting via conference call on Aug.19, Sept. 9 and Oct. 14. If you would like to participate, please contact Steve or Elizabeth and they’ll give you the call-in details.
- Legislative Report. Our lobbyist, Elizabeth Wefel, gave an overview of the 2019 legislative session, explaining how power shifts from the election impacted the tenor of the Legislature. Members of the suburban-dominated DFL House were more willing to spend money, but less interested in Greater Minnesota specific programs. The rural-dominated GOP Senate was less interested in new spending, but more willing to support Greater Minnesota specific solutions.
The GMPT was able to achieve most of its goals this session, including preserving the 40/40/20 split with no money diverted to pet projects and securing $3 million from the Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund and $1 million from the general fund for local parks and trails grants programs. Our only disappointment this session was that the Legislature funded the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks & Trails Commission with Legacy money rather than general fund money. For more information on the results of the legislative session, see our 2019 session report.
- Prescriptions for Parks. Arielle Courtney and Sara Holger with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) talked about the efforts of the Parks Rx program in Minnesota. For those of you who are not familiar, Park Rx is an initiative that seeks to decrease the burden of chronic disease, increase health and happiness, and foster environmental stewardship by virtue of prescribing nature during the routine delivery of health care. Many studies of have shown the link between time spent outside in nature and health improvements, both mental and physical. The idea of Park Rx is to get health care providers connected with parks and recreation professionals and others that manage natural resources to help encourage the use of our natural spaces for improved health. Arielle and Sara recommended using parkrxamerica.org as a jumping point. They are currently working with this organization to get all of the state parks and trails loaded into its online system for health care professionals. They encouraged our members to reach out to Park Rx America to begin getting your local and regional parks into their system as well. For more information on Park Rx, visit the Parks Rx America website or contact Arielle at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sara at email@example.com.
- Park Highlight. Marcia Larson described the work the City of Bemidji is doing at North Country Park that was made possible by a Outdoor Recreation Grant through the DNR. The city used the grant to build a classroom, shelter and add signage. They also created a bluebird trail that includes actual bird houses. They have used both the shelter and classroom as part of a monarch festival.
- Communications Committee Update. Brad Harrington talked about the ongoing social media work the committee is doing. The committee is looking for help creating content for the blog and newsletter. If you’re willing to help, please contact Brad at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to learn more about what happened at the meeting, you can find a PDF of the Power Point here and the draft minutes here. We would like to thank everyone who attended the meeting. For those who were in the Duluth area, we would like to apologize for the technical difficulties and promise to get those worked out before the next ITV meeting.