Now that the Minnesota Legislature has adjourned, we have some good news to share regarding our legislative priorities:
Money for Local Parks & Trails Grants
A top priority for the GMPT was increasing the amount of money available for the Local Trail Connections Grant Program and the Outdoor Recreation Grant Program. Earlier this year, the Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) included $2 million for these programs in its recommendations to the Legislature on how money from the Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF) should be spent. This proposal was included in the LCCMR bill. On the last day of the session, the LCCMR bill was folded into the bonding bill, H.F. 4225. This bill passed both the House and Senate. Now we are waiting to see if the Governor signs it; he has 14 days to do so.
We anticipate that the Governor will sign the bill, but there is a chance that he could veto it. The House and Senate had set their budget cap for the bonding bill at a somewhat arbitrary $825 million. The demand for bonding far exceeded that amount, so the Legislature looked for other pots of money that could be used to finance projects. It created a new form of bond – Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund Appropriations Bonds — which will be paid back with money from the ENRTF. Environmental groups and DFL legislators have objected to this type of funding because they believe it is not what the ENRTF was intended for. It is possible that the Governor may decide to veto the entire bill because of this mechanism, though we do not think that is likely.
Money for Member Projects
In addition to the appropriation for local parks and trails grant programs, several GMPT members received funding for projects, either through LCCMR grants or through a bonding appropriation. Here’s a few of the members that received funding:
- La Crescent – Wagon Wheel Trail
- Olmstead County – Lake Zumbro Sedimentation Removal
- St. Louis & Lake Counties Regional Railroad Authority – Mesabi Trail
- Red Wing – Mississippi Blufflands Trail
- Isanti County – Swedish Immigrant Trail Segment
In addition, GMPT members were also supportive of funding for the Chester Woods State Trail and Blufflands Harmony to Iowa state trail, both of which received funding.
Another concern this session was ensuring that the Legislature did not interfere with any of the recommendations for funding from the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission. We are happy to report that no changes were made and parks and trails recommended for funding will receive their awards later this summer, pending completion of paperwork with the Department of Natural Resources.
No Negative Policy Changes
One of our concerns every legislative session is the need to push back against proposals that would interfere with the development, operation or maintenance of parks and trails. We are happy to report that no such proposals moved forward this year.
If you have any further questions regarding the close of the legislative session, please contact GMPT lobbyist Elizabeth Wefel at firstname.lastname@example.org.