Panel to oversee parks spending in Greater Minn.

Published 9:23 am Tuesday, September 10, 2013

ST. CLOUD — A new state commission will recommend how lawmakers should spend parks and trails money outside of the Twin Cities metro area.

The Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission is meant to give the rest of the state a greater say in how Legacy Amendment tax dollars are spent when it comes to outdoors projects. Similar commissions overseeing other pots of Legacy money have a big influence on which projects are funded with the special 3/8th cent sales tax.

Gov. Mark Dayton appointed the 13 members last month. The panel is expected to meet for the first time in coming weeks. One of its first orders is to craft a master plan to guide its recommendations. The law establishing the commission says it cannot recommend funding for parks and trails that aren’t in the master plan.

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A dispute over how parks and trails dollars should be divided between outstate and metro-area projects has been one of several flashpoints for lawmakers since the Legacy Amendment was approved in 2008.

“Local and regional officials, professionals and elected people, will be able to direct how the funds are spent,” said Douglas County Parks Superintendent Al Lieffort, a member of the new commission. “That will be quite different from what has happened in the past.”