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Published April 01, 2013, 12:09 PM

Minnesota's urban, rural parks organizations fight for funding

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A legislative fight over parks and trails money is brewing between rural and urban lawmakers.

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A legislative fight over parks and trails money is brewing between rural and urban lawmakers.

The St. Cloud Times reported that officials from metro organizations are unhappy with how the state divides $80 million in parks and trails funding — one of four funds from the Minnesota's Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.

After years of debate over how to allocate the so-called Legacy funds, a working group reached a compromise last fall: 40 percent to metro areas, 40 percent to state parks and trails and the remaining 20 percent for outstate areas. Gov. Mark Dayton backed that plan in his own budget proposal.

But John Erwin, a commissioner on the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, said the funding split is unfair because most of the state's projected growth is expected to be concentrated in urban areas. He also cited estimates that show the Twin Cities region generates most of the state's tax revenue to support his case that metro parks organizations need more than 40 percent of Legacy funding.

Al Lieffort, chair of the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Coalition, noted that many state residents from metro areas visit parks and trails in outstate Minnesota.

Legislators will likely hash out the funding disagreement as they take up the next two-year budget in the coming weeks.

Voters approved the so-called Legacy amendment in 2008, levying a 3/8-cent sales tax to fund outdoors, conservation and arts projects. Ever since, the funding split between rural and urban districts has been a source of contention — at least until the working group's compromise last year. But that could be scrapped.

"We're kind of back to square one now," Courtland Nelson, director of the parks and trails division for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said of the disagreement. "We very much were hoping that we could avoid this."

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