March 18, 2015

Legendary? Says who?

By STU MERRY

Would Bully Pulpit Golf course in Medora still set attendance records if the road to the nationally-acclaimed course wasn’t paved?

Are the three state parks on Lake Sakakawea breaking attendance records because of paved roads leading to beefed up accommodations?

Then, why wouldn’t make paving roads to recreational sites statewide be a higher priority for North Dakota officials?

That’s what the Friends of Lake Sakakawea and its chairman, Terry Fleck, want to know.

In his budget, Governor Jack Dalrymple designated $5 million for the Department of Transportaitn’s Special Roads Fund with emphasis on roads to recreation sites statewide. Friends members say while $5 million is a step in the right direction, it still isn’t enough because of massive infrastructure needs and road construction costs. The Friends originally pushed for $20 million, although that number was considered by the group to be just a fraction to meet the vast needs.

But like that trophy walleye that was just netted, that $5 million went on the chopping block in the House where members fileted the amount down to $1 million.

Fleck shakes his head.

Even with testimony by State Tourism Director Sara Otte Coleman, the blinders remain. In testimony before a House committee, Otte Coleman said with the growth in visitors it makes sense to focus on highways and roads.

"North Dakota needs to expand recreation offerings to meet visitor and resident needs. In order to attract new recreation providers we need to improve the roads leading to popular recreation sites.


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