State plan would fund more outdoor programs

Emily Dalnodar

Outdoor enthusiasts might get more exposure and accessibility to Minnesota’s natural beauty if Gov. Arne Carlson’s “Access to the Outdoors” program passes through the Legislature.
The plan — dubbed the biggest outdoors package in state history — will be reviewed by the state Jan. 20.
The proposed deal would allot $201 million to improve biking and hiking trails, campgrounds, shooting ranges, outdoor education and some new programs as well.
One feature of the package includes funding for a program called “Becoming an Outdoors Woman.” Carlson proposed $50,000 to expand an educational program geared toward recruiting women to outdoor activities.
The nation-wide program started in 1991 in Wisconsin and is in its fourth year in Minnesota. It has since spread to over 40 states, said Mary Dowse, who works with the program.
The program is taught by 90 percent women and focuses on teaching everything from winter camping and canoeing to hunting and cooking game. Dowse said she sees a lot of young women from colleges who are exploring the outdoors now.
“There are a whole lot of women who’d enjoy the outdoors if they had more confidence with it. That’s what the program does,” said Dick Phillips who is the faculty mentor for the University’s Ecology Club. “It’s women leading women with minimum interference by men. It’s a wonderful thing,” he said.
Ron Nargang, the deputy commissioner to the Department of Natural Resources, agreed.
Nargang said because so many women today are single mothers, the program is a good way to promote outdoor activities they can share with their children.
“I think it’s a particularly good idea. There is a need to create education and involvement,” he said.
In addition to this program, $1.2 million of the proposed package will go toward updating an electronic system for obtaining general outdoor and environmental information.
Under the title “Outdoors On-Line Initiative,” officials hope Minnesota’s wilderness will be easily accessible via the Internet.
“One aspect is making data systems accessible to geography, not bureaucracy,” Nargang said of the new online setup.
In the current system, if outdoor enthusiasts need to find maps to a lake they must access the DNR World Wide Website. If they also questioned the quality of water in that lake, they would have to exit the DNR Website and go into the Pollution Control Agency’s site.
With the new system, there would be a one-stop site with all the environmental and outdoor activity information about a certain area. Browsers would be able to go into the site, which would have maps, trails and site information and plan an entire trip, officials said.
Also included in the initiative are plans for an Electronic Licensing System. The system, which other states currently use, would allow people to easily acquire hunting, fishing and recreational licenses over the phone or at point of sale terminals. Officials hope to have the system in operation by 1999.
Joe Rauscher, who owns and operates Joe’s Sporting Goods in St. Paul said he thinks the electronic licensing would make things easier for himself and his clients since he wouldn’t have to do the paperwork.
“(Now) we basically do it as a convenience to our customers,” he said.
Student anglers and hunters also thought the system would work.
“That’d be pretty slick,” said Jared Gryskiewicz, a sophomore in the College of Liberal Arts. Gryskiewicz said he needs to obtain a new license for fishing every year. “It’d be easier,” he said.
Along with the outdoors package, officials say Carlson plans to pump more funding into the environment. One idea is a “Lake Package” which would request funding to improve state lakes and rivers.
Minnesota’s outdoor wilderness is “part of our identity as a state,” Carlson said in a statement. “It’s an investment in our future.”