This is to recognize the great progress Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen and his colleagues on the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee have achieved over the last two years for Park and Trail Legacy funding in greater Minnesota.
As committee chairman, Sen. Ingebrigtsen and the rural members of the committee worked closely with the Minnesota Rural Counties Caucus, and the Greater Minnesota Regional Park and Trail Coalition, on efforts to bring a measure of equity into how Park and Trail Legacy funding is split between metro parks and trails, the Department of Natural Resources, and greater Minnesota.
When the voters adopted the Legacy Act in 2008, the additional sales tax revenue generated by the amendment went to a new account to benefit statewide Park and Trails, Clean Water, Outdoors, and the Arts. The initial Park and Trail Legacy split in 2009, was not fair to Greater Minnesota - with 43 percent exclusive to DNR, and 43 percent exclusive to metro parks - leaving only 14 percent remaining for the 80 non-metro counties. In addition, metro parks were allowed to compete for that remaining 14 percent, and were awarded 20 percent.
Last year, Sen. Ingebrigtsen helped tilt those percentages so greater Minnesota can begin planning the high quality regional park and trail system the public overwhelmingly said was priority-one in hearings across the state. Because of the remarkable efforts of Sen. Ingebrigtsen and his committee, Greater Minnesota will receive in 2012 and 2013 alone, nearly as much as it received in the preceding 20 years of park and trail funding.
This year, Sen. Ingebrigtsen successfully guided legislation through his committee and into law eliminating a 25 percent local match and $500,000 per project cap requirement that was imposed on non-metro projects. The local match and project cap provisions were a significant and unfair burden to good projects moving forward in cash-strapped greater Minnesota cities and counties. Though metro park and trail entities had no corresponding statutory requirement to meet the local match or project cap standards, we had to overcome strong opposition from metro parks in order to eliminate them. Sen. Ingebrigtsen led the way for our success each of the last two years.
While we continue to explore new ways to be efficient in light of ever-tighter budgets, we are also taking a close look at formulas where Greater Minnesota is not getting its fair share. With the help of leaders like Sen. Ingebrigtsen, we are finding our way to some significant success.
Mike Hanson - Koochiching County Commissioner and Chair, Minnesota Rural Counties Caucus
Marcia Larson - City of Bemidji Parks Director, and Chair, Greater Minnesota Regional Park and Trail Coalition