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Local View: Gov. Walz forgoes millions in tourism dollars baiting and switching the fishing opener

We may not know where or when the governor will make an appearance at this year’s fishing opener, but what we do know is that Gov. Walz isn’t giving Minnesota’s tourism industry the critical boost it desperately needs.

Opine_KellyFenton.jpg
Kelly Fenton

I didn’t realize it until now — but Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has quite a few things in common with Waldo — the wandering, perpetually lost character from the popular 1980s children’s book, “Where’s Waldo.” Walz and Waldo both seemingly travel to everyday places — hiding in plain sight.

For example, as Minnesotans look to the annual governor’s fishing opener slated for May 14, a few things will be missing this year. A local media blitz and a host city bursting with visitors has been replaced with listening sessions and roundtables — and most notably Walz plans to go fishing somewhere on Leech Lake Reservation. But the exact location, time or format has yet to be announced.

We may not know where or when the governor will make an appearance at this year’s fishing opener, but what we do know is Walz isn’t giving Minnesota’s tourism industry the critical boost it desperately needs. According to Explore Minnesota, more than $1 billion comes into the state's treasury just from the sales tax on leisure and hospitality spending. Tragically, the pandemic has cost the industry $12 billion. At a time when our hometown cafes, local bars, restaurants and bait shops desperately need an advocate, Walz is seemingly hiding in plain sight, again, like Waldo.

A look at the numbers tells us that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reports Minnesota is home to more than 1.4 million licensed anglers who spend roughly 15 days fishing each year on Minnesota’s 5,400 fishable lakes. Going forward, I hope the opportunity to capitalize on one of Minnesota’s greatest natural resources and largest industries is maximized and the full potential realized.

It’s unfortunate that cities will have to wait to apply to be a host city until 2023, letting an entire year pass without the critical boost to Minnesota’s outdoor recreation and tourism industry. Walz’s continued absence on things the people of Minnesota deeply care about seems emblematic of his entire governorship.

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Minnesotans have been baited and switched once again.

Kelly Fenton, of Woodbury, Minnesota, is the interim chair of the Foundation for Minnesota’s Future.

Fisherman catching fish on small boat
Getty Images
Rudzhan Nagiev/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Related Topics: TIM WALZFISHINGTOURISM
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