Minnesota State Park’s Budget Battle

Minnesota State Parks Experience Budget Battles Annually

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“We try and come up at least four times a year. We love every season in the state park especially winter. There aren’t as many people up here, but the trails are still accessible. Wonder facilities here,” Mark Erickson, salesperson at Midwest Mountaineering said.

He is an avid outdoors-man.

He loves using the facilities state parks provide for the public.

“It is a wonderful recourse. It’s a place where we can come and get back to nature. It’s also a place where we can bring friends,” Erickson explained.

And the naturalist programs? Yes, he attends those, too.

“There’s so much to learn up here. But the naturalists really do help get a greater understanding of the park system and the nature itself,” he said.

But the potential for future budget cuts means state parks could be forced to end some of the programs.

“Last summer with one naturalist core and one naturalist on staff, I felt there were many days and weeks where we couldn’t meet the need. The demand was so high,” Kurt Mead, an interpretive naturalist at Tettegouche State Park said. 

He also said he finds his job to be important for the park visitors.

“Without interpretative naturalists at parks, they’re still great places and there’s still a lot to do and learn, but the interpretive naturalists really help open up doors. Really help people connect in a different way than if there wasn’t anybody here to talk to,” Mead said.

His passion for the state parks stands out among the rest.

“I just love being able to share my passion and my knowledge. Things that are important to me that many people never had time to research, learn and experience,” said Mead.

He says it’s been a rough decade for state park funding and they have been doing more with less.

“It’s hard to plan, it’s hard to plan ahead without a solid stable budget plan to work on,” he explained.

But Mead believes regardless of any budget battles ahead, people should still come to the parks and check out the natural wonders of Minnesota in unique places.

“So many of our parks are gems. They’ve been set aside for a purpose for a reason and it’s up to us to go out and enjoy them,” Mead said.

Generations of families come to enjoy the parks.

“When our kids were younger we would bring them, and now that our kids are older they still like to come up and spend time with us, but it’s fun to see all ages enjoying the state parks,” Erickson said.

“There were so many families especially; they come to the parks for the programs. They check out online, they check out the website to find out what’s going on and schedule their daily activities around what’s going on at the park,” Mead said.

People from other states and countries also come to experience what we are lucky to have in our own backyard.

“I’ve had people from California come back and say, ‘The Pacific Coast has got nothing on this, this is an amazing place, amazing stuff’,'” Mead said.

Park employees play a big role in helping guide and inform guests about the natural history of the land of 10,000 lakes.

It’s something they hope funding issues will not change.

“It’s the crowned jewel of our state and attending park programs, by camping, by going for hikes you’re supporting that,” Mead said.

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