The Brown County Recreational Trails Coalition (BCRTC) held a public open house Tuesday evening to seek public interest and volunteers in creating opportunities for residents and visitors to connect the communities of Brown County that would promote physical, mental, emotional and social health.
County officials including Tom Schmitz, New Ulm Park and Recreation Director; Mark Kober, Sleepy Eye City Manager; and Mac Tilberg, Springfield City Manager, led the discussion.
The mission of the coalition is to connect people with places throughout the county using recreational means. Schmitz said that while this coalition has always been open to the public for input and suggestions, in the past several years, citizen involvement has waned.
“What we’ve come to realize is that government can’t and shouldn’t do everything,” Schmitz said. “We proposed this open house to invite citizens back in. We need to have citizen interest for anything to happen effectively and efficiently.”
Schmitz said the coalition has worked for the past several years with communities and the Brown County Commissioners to develop a joint powers of agreement. This agreement says there will be no private land taken, no eminent domain and trails will not be blazed where one isn’t wanted.
There is a new reason for a push to develop connectivity in the county. Five years ago the Minnesota government passed a Legacy Ammendment that gives communities funding and opportunities to create significant regional projects that would connect and benefit communities.
“If Brown County isn’t interested in using this money, the money will go elsewhere in the state to other communities who have taken the opportunity,” Schmitz said, adding that significant regional projects can take many years to complete and these funds are only available for the next 15 years.
Kober said those who expressed interest in taking part in this coalition will be contacted at a future date. It is the coalition’s mission to engage in discussions about how to support the activities of those who bring people to the communities of Brown County.