Investing in parks is investing in the region’s prosperity
With the 2016 legislative session in full swing, you may be hearing a lot about our efforts to secure funding for transit. Transit will again be our primary focus; it impacts more people than any other single item on our legislative agenda. But our other initiatives are also critical to the region’s prosperity and livability. Specifically, I’m thinking about parks.
We have a world-class regional parks system. With over 54,000 acres, 348 miles of regional trails, 42 regional parks, 12 park reserves, and 8 special recreation features, our system hosted more than 48 million visits last year. That is more people than visited the Mall of America or the top 10 most-visited national parks combined.
We need to keep investing in our parks to ensure that our children and grandchildren have access to the excellent experiences in our regional parks that we have today.
To do that we are asking Minnesota legislators to bond for $10 million in regional parks improvements. That would be matched by $6.67 million in bonding from the Metropolitan Council and another $2.5 million in local, state and federal funds. Altogether, for every dollar the state invests in this park system, we will find another 90 cents to match it.
The funding will go to construct and improve new facilities like picnic shelters, swimming areas, boardwalks and other pedestrian improvements. It will be used to acquire new land for parks, construct trails and to plan for future park growth.
While the parks we have today are excellent, we need to keep improving them to meet the demand from future population growth and changing expectations. By 2040 the region will have another 750,000 residents and parks will be an important part of making sure the region maintains the excellent quality of life we enjoy today.
Maintaining the good quality of life we have in this region isn’t something we have to do simply because it’s nice. It is an important factor in our region’s ability to attract new businesses, investment and jobs. Companies and corporations competing in the global marketplace need to attract and retain world class talent. Without vibrant arts, entertainment and recreational venues, it is very difficult to compete with cities like Seattle, Denver or Houston.
For me, there is an emotional reason to invest in parks as well. Minnesota is one of the most beautiful places on earth. We have a rich tradition of spending time outdoors in every season: skiing, hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, camping, and picnicking. In the most populated part of the state, where we are seeing more growth and development every year, we need parks to help us remember who we are. Minnesotans.
Learn more about our regional parks system.