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Proposal seeks way to reform, better promote state outdoor recreation efforts

Change and reform can be difficult.

But that’s just what a bill sponsored by Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Mpls) is intended to bring through creation of the Minnesota Outdoor Recreation Office.

Established within Explore Minnesota Tourism, the office would be tasked with increasing equitable outdoors access for Minnesota’s increasingly diverse population by coordinating outdoor recreation policy and management, assisting in promoting and marketing outdoor recreation events, and recruiting and growing outdoor recreation businesses, Davnie told the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee Wednesday.

Accomplishing this would require coordination with multiple state agencies, such as the Department of Natural Resources, Department of Transportation and Department of Employment and Economic Development, Davnie said.

HF2220 was approved and referred to the House Ways and Means Committee with a recommendation that it be sent to the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance Division.

Testimony from Laura Mylan, senior vice president with the Children & Nature Network, on the importance and necessity of increasing access to outdoor recreation for the well-being of children, struck a strong chord with legislators.

Children of color and from low-income communities tend to have less access to outdoor recreation, Mylan testified, adding that studies show unstructured time outdoors has profound impacts on mental and physical development, producing healthier children and better academic outcomes.

“Society has moved indoors. There is some urgency,” Mylan said. “The first generation of indoor kids are becoming parents.”

Not everyone is on board, in part, due to the lack of input from agencies and stakeholders in developing the proposal.

“You missed a really good opportunity to get this bill off on the right foot had you engaged those named,” said Rep. Dan Fabian (R-Roseau).

Three recreational associations expressed opposition to the bill. Nor was support forthcoming from the DNR.

Assistant Commissioner Bob Meier noted the DNR had not been consulted. While supporting the concept, he said the department could not support the bill due to concerns with some of its language.

Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul) said testimony and the data offered on a number of bills, including HF2220, illustrates the need Davnie is attempting to address.

“There is an opportunity here to find a way to coordinate better,” Hansen said. “I support moving [the bill] on to continue the conversation.”

The companion, SF2237, is sponsored by Sen. Carrie Ruud (R-Breezy Point). It awaits action by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee.


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