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Trails advocates make their case

Published (2/22/2008)
By Nick Busse
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Advocates for state and regional trails lined up Feb. 18 to plead their case for state bond money before the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance Division.

Division Chairwoman Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls) warned testifiers up-front that they were competing with each other for a very limited pool of funds.

“You should know that this committee adores trails. That is not an issue. The issue is … we don’t have an unlimited pocketbook,” Wagenius told one testifier.

In all, the division members took testimony on more than 20 bills. Among the largest requests, Rep. Frank Moe (DFL-Bemidji) sponsors HF3002, a $29 million request to fund 16 state trail projects that together represent the wish list of the Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota.

Moe said the projects are vital to the local economy and to the state’s tourism industry. “We need to accelerate and move forward,” he said, adding that the bill would create jobs for the state almost immediately.

A companion bill, SF2490, sponsored by Sen. Gary Kubly (DFL-Granite Falls), awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

Other highlights included:

• a $10 million request and a separate $2 million request to complete the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway and upgrade its lighting fixtures (HF3176 and HF2829, both sponsored by Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls));

• a $2.19 million request to fund the Rice Creek North Regional Trail in Anoka County (HF2461, sponsored by Rep. Paul Gardner (DFL-Shoreview)); and

• a $2 million request for a project to remove and replace the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge in Bloomington (HF2707, sponsored by Rep. Ann Lenczewski (DFL-Bloomington)).

All of the bills were held over for possible inclusion in the division’s bonding recommendations.

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