CARLTON, Minn. (WCCO) – State parks are one of the best places to preserve Minnesota’s resources and history, but officials say a lot of work needs to be done to make parks and trails safer.
At Jay Cooke State Park on Tuesday, DNR officials gave a tour of the northern Minnesota park grounds, showing what needs to be fixed as part of a bigger plan that spans trails, parks and fisheries all over the state.
“This is a statewide issue,” said the DNR’s director of capital and investment, Kent Lokkesmoe.
Six years ago, Jay Cooke State Park was ravaged by flooding. While the park’s iconic swing bridge was fixed, there is still no running water or flush toilets.
“The primary thing here is the sanitation building, the campground, it’s totally inadequate for today’s needs,” Lokkesmoe said.
Gov. Mark Dayton has asked for $130 million to help make repairs to parks like Jay Cooke, as well as bridges and trails around Minnesota.
DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr says Minnesotans don’t want second-class facilities.
“We want first class in this state, and we are hopeful the Legislature will agree with the governor and we’ll get the dollars we need to go forward,” he said.
In a statement, Dayton said the state park projects are essential for protecting Minnesota’s environment and improving recreational opportunities for residents.
There are currently more than 2,000 buildings in poor and unacceptable condition around the state.
“We have a huge need to take care of what we have,” Landwehr said, adding that state parks drew more than 1 million visitors last year, bringing in around $50 million in tourism spending.
DNR officials believe the money will be worth the return after investing in some state park structures.