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 Wednesday, Governor Walz announced Executive Order 20-81 requiring the use of face coverings in “indoor businesses and indoor public settings” beginning Friday, July 24 at 11:59 p.m. Speaking only for myself, many things went through my mind on how this would impact parks and recreation operations. Luckily, in reading through EO 20-81 there seems to be minimum impact to our industry.
Item 10 of the order, “circumstances where mandatory face coverings may be removed,” covers most of our industry. Examples of these exemptions include participating in organized sports, participating in practices/performances, swimming, and physical exercise. The Outdoor Recreation Guidelines provided by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources promote the use of face coverings in accordance the Minnesota Department of Health guidelines which have been updated to meet EO 20-81. You can find this at bulletpoint eight under the “Guidelines for the Public” in the “General Considerations” section.
EO 20-81 provides more guidance in Item 11, “situations where face coverings are strongly encouraged.” Here again it provides exemption for indoor/outdoor private social gatherings where social distancing is impossible or difficult to maintain. I encourage you to continue to provide information through signage, social media, websites, and any other communication avenues about the importance of social distancing and “know before you go” guidelines on how to keep safe at our parks and trails.
Hopefully this will help as you make decisions and deal with questions about your parks, trails and open spaces. I would encourage you to read through EO 20-81 as I only brought out a couple of highlights in it. Please feel free to reach out to me or anyone else with Greater Minnesota Parks & Trails with any questions you may have regarding this new mandate.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” I believe this true of today. People are in different places with the pandemic. Some are ready to fly, some are running, some are walking, and some are crawling, but we are all trying to move forward. Let’s continue to provide the spaces for people to move forward.
Parks & Recreation Operations Manager, Wright County Parks & Recreation
Board Member, Greater Minnesota Parks & Trails