There is no question that we Minnesotans love our state parks. More than 9 million visits are logged to our 68 state parks each year. Bev Sundheim of Cannon Falls and her friend, Nancy Dreier, have visited all of them. Bev told the Cannon Falls Beacon that after hiking one afternoon in Frontenac State Park, “we joked about hiking all of the state parks in Minnesota, never thinking that we would really do it.”
But they did! Looking back on their hikes, Bev told the paper, “Every place has its own distinct beauty and uniqueness and something interesting to offer. I recommend everyone get out there and take advantage of Minnesota’s great state park resources.”
Bev and Nancy aren’t alone. For many Minnesotans, cherished memories are created in our state’s spectacular parks. When state lawmakers tried to balance the budget last year by forcing the DNR to harvest and sell black walnut trees in some state parks, it’s no wonder that an unprecedented outpouring of Minnesotans responded, forcing officials to abandon this gimmick.
Minnesotans don’t want their elected officials to play politics with these state treasures, but short-sighted decisions by lawmakers are impacting our parks. Repeated, deep budget cuts are taking their toll on our state, regional and local parks. Many have been forced to cut hours and services, including trail maintenance and visitor centers. Cities and counties have an increasingly difficult time keeping their parks clean and accessible, bad news for the families who live nearby. What’s worse, DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr repeatedly warned lawmakers in 2011 that, if this funding trend continues, some state parks may be forced to close.
In addition to deep cuts, our analysis of the 2012-13 conservation budget shows another troubling trend. Lawmakers are backfilling some of the cuts with money from both the Legacy Amendment and lottery funds, even though the law specifically says that this money is supposed to be used in addition to traditional sources of funding.
Conservation Minnesota is dedicated to keeping our parks open, accessible and safe for families all over the state to enjoy. We’re working with lawmakers and state agencies to find long-term, stable sources of funding instead of risky schemes like for-profit logging.
Minnesotans should be able to take up Bev and Nancy’s challenge without worrying that some of our state parks will close before they have a chance to visit.