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On 50th birthday, Casey Jones State Trail needs funding for updating and completion

PIPESTONE, Minnesota — The state of Minnesota is consistently praised for its vast number of parks and trails. What MinnPost readers may not know is that 2016 is an incredibly significant birthday for our state’s trail system. It was 50 years ago this year when Casey Jones, in southwest Minnesota, was first designated as a state trail, and our system has grown since then into a prize for our state. The trail system is now a feature of our state that makes Minnesotans proud. The parks and trails in our state draw tourists each year and provide space for Minnesotans to use on a more regular basis, year-round.

It is important for Minnesota to have a robust park and trail system for several key reasons.

Our parks and trails have drawn people to our state each year since the Casey Jones State Trail started this wonderful system 50 years ago. Tourism is an essential industry in Minnesota, and without our parks and trails, we would see this industry add less revenue to our economy. By providing many hundreds of miles of trail for folks to use all across the state, Minnesota stands out as a destination for tourists who enjoy getting outside and enjoying nature. It is important that Minnesota continues to be a top destination for folks to visit to enjoy quality walking paths, hiking trails and park systems.

Health and wellness — and quality jobs

Another obvious benefit to having a well-funded parks and trails system is how it positively contributes to people’s overall health and wellness. In recent years, staying fit and living healthy lifestyles has become a priority for many people across the country. It is encouraging to see so many people prioritize their health and their families’ health. Parks and trails provide spaces for individuals, families and friends to get outdoors, get quality exercise and enjoy our state’s natural environment. Without these public spaces, people who rely on our trail system to exercise would have far more limited options to get the quality exercise that they both need and desire.

Another thing that our parks and trails provide is stable, quality jobs. This is something that may occasionally be overlooked. Because we have so many parks and trails throughout our state, it takes work to keep them up. We are able to employ quality, hardworking individuals to keep up and protect our parks and trails. This is a vital industry and these are important, good-paying jobs.

Being from southern Minnesota, I have been blessed to be able to enjoy and take advantage of Casey Jones where this all began for our state. I have enjoyed the miles of trail the Casey Jones provides for many years. It is a place I have brought my family and my friends, and visited on my own to enjoy the outdoors and get quality exercise. It is my sincere hope that the Casey Jones State Trail will be around for many more generations to enjoy.

Allocation needed from the Legislature

Our trails system is a remarkable resource for our state and the tourism it attracts. Adequate funds are necessary to upkeep a trail of this size, and it is my hope that the Legislature will allocate these needed funds for the system, and particularly Casey Jones Trail this legislative session. These funds will be used to keep up this beloved trail as well as complete a wonderful system for biking, hiking, hunting, creating quality jobs and drawing people to our great state for healthy tourism.

There are trails across our state just like Casey Jones, trails that are important to people in certain communities, and trails that would be missed should they not be properly funded. I have been able to enjoy trails all across our state and I plan to continue to use these parks and trails for years to come. We should encourage our policymakers, governor and legislators alike across the state of Minnesota, to provide funding for one of our states most prized industries this session. Let’s start by wishing Casey Jones a happy birthday by updating and completing it, and prioritize some of Minnesota’s most natural and beautiful landmarks. 

Verne Long, of Pipestone, Minnesota, served in the Minnesota House of Representatives (1963-1974).

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