Park problems

Published 10:47 am Friday, April 5, 2013

The parks people in the metropolitan area continue to fail to grasp the truth about park usage in Greater Minnesota. Maybe we can clear it up for them.

When it comes to funding parks, the state parks cannot be seen as rural or urban. They cannot be classified as metro or outstate. They belong to the people of Minnesota as a whole.

The fact is, people who live in Greater Minnesota, when they need to go to a park, they most often visit regional parks, the ones with facilities ranging from baseball and soccer fields to pavilions and playground sets. It’s a completely different kind of park than the treasured landscapes found at state parks.

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Yet metro parks officials look at the $80 million in parks and trails funds under Minnesota’s Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment and want to take the lion’s share — then claim rural Minnesota gets its cut through funding for state parks.

How is that fair? Metro parks officials, without realizing it, are saying kids in the metro area should get funding for their Little League baseball fields but kids in Greater Minnesota should not.

A working group of parks and trails advocates convened last year to find a fair way to divvy the funds. It agreed to allot 40 percent of funds to metro regional parks and trails, 40 percent to state parks and trails and 20 percent to outstate regional parks and trails.

That agreement seems rather fair to the urban parks, doesn’t it?

Not so, say urban parks officials. They cite growth estimates that say the urban areas should get the funding, and they say the metro area generates 64 percent of sales tax revenues. They question why 60 percent of the funding sources goes to Greater Minnesota.

But it doesn’t.

Since the Legacy Amendment came into existence in 2008, metro officials do not understand that many users of the state parks come from the metro area. Forty-two percent of visitors to State Parks in 2012 were from the Twin Cities metro area, and 18 percent were from outside the state. Sixty-one percent traveled more than 50 miles from home to go to state parks.

Also, metro parks officials do not understand that many purchasers of taxed products sold in the Twin Cities are Greater Minnesota residents and out-of-state residents who visit for pro sports venues, the arts, conventions and business. There is no doubt Twin Cities residents alone aren’t shopping at the Mall of America. In a nutshell, that 64 percent figure isn’t coming merely from the pockets of Twin Cities residents.

Moreover, to Greater Minnesotans looking at that funding agreement, it appears only 20 percent of the funding is going to their parks. And now the metro parks people want to take that way.

It would be nice to think Minnesotans don’t have to fight between metro and outstate because everyone cares about kids and families. Apparently, Minnesota Nice doesn’t apply to parks.