$255,552 grant to fund enhancements to Austin’s Jay C. Hormel Nature Center

Published 4:30 pm Monday, December 27, 2021

People who enjoy outdoor recreation in the Austin area will soon have their experiences enhanced, once recommendations are approved to fund $319,000 of improvements at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.  

The Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission (GMRPTC) has completed its extensive application review process and chose the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center and 19 other parks and trails around the state for a record $12.2 million in funding for Fiscal Year 2023. The GMRPTC will now ask the Minnesota Legislature to approve the recommendations through the Parks and Trails Legacy Fund, one of four funds created by the 2008 Minnesota Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. The Legislature has annually approved GMRPTC requests, since Legacy Funds are already dedicated and may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.

“We are elated to have been selected for this grant from the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission, which will allow us to blacktop or repair 1.65 miles of trails, a large portion out to the tower, which will ease access to a larger portion of the property,” said Luke Reese, Director of the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center. “Area residents and visitors already enjoy the relaxation and beauty they find at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center, and this needed funding will make their visits better than ever.”

The $255,552 grant is 80% of the total $319,440 project to improve the trails. The nonprofit Friends of the Hormel Nature Center has committed to funding the other 20% ($63,888) of the project. 

“During this 50th anniversary year for the Nature Center, the Friends of the Hormel Nature Center have focused on projects to improve access to the Nature Center for all people,” said Friends of the Hormel Nature Center President, Tim Ruzek. “Along with the purchase of three Action Trackchairs and updating the maple syruping shack, supporting this project will allow more people than ever to enjoy the prairies, forests, and wetlands that make the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center a gem for Austin.”

“Every grant awardee is very deserving, and we commend them for how thoroughly they described their needs in their grant applications,” said GMRPTC Executive Director Renee Mattson. “It’s the dedicated people at the local level who make Greater Minnesota’s parks and trails really shine, and we’re pleased to assist them with their efforts.”

Mattson said the Commission is also allocating $212,053 to a new Connecting People with the Outdoors Small Grant fund, which will be available to all 67 designated parks and trails in Greater Minnesota.  Emphasis for grant criteria will be placed on increasing access for underserved and communities of color, enhancing handicap accessibility, transportation and programming.  Grant fund applications will be available in early 2022.

The 20 parks and trails recommended for funding are below. District numbers in the grid refer to these geographic areas of Minnesota: 1-Northeast; 2-Northwest; 3-West Central; 4-East Central; 5-Southwest; 6-Southeast.

“Legacy Funding is an amazing and far-reaching gift that Minnesotans chose to make happen by voting to tax themselves,” added Mattson. “Without Legacy dollars, many of these projects simply would not happen or would take many years before coming to fruition.”

The GMRPTC provides recommendations to the Minnesota Legislature for grants to parks and trails of regional significance in the 80 counties outside the seven-county metropolitan area. Since 2014 the GMRPTC has awarded more than $52 million in grants to over 50 regional parks and trails. Combined with $20 million in community matches, grants are used to fund infrastructure improvements, land acquisitions, new facilities, trail rehabilitation and more. Additional information may be found at gmrptcommission.org.