Rep. Bud Nornes, left, and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen show off a preliminary drawing of the Glendalough visitor center. Nornes is a major advocate for the state park.

State House Rep. Bud Nornes recently announced that he will not seek reelection in 2020 after 12 terms and 23 years representing constituents of Otter Tail County. 

Those close to development in Glendalough during that time would regard Nornes as a consistent and tireless advocate. His presence at the annual “Walk for Glendalough” was common – unless he was in a legislative session.  At those walk events, Nornes offered updates from St. Paul and was sure to applaud work of the DNR staff and local volunteers for their contributions in the park. 

Among his extensive advocacy, two pivotal projects attest to Nornes’ Glendalough commitment.  

The first involves the bike and pedestrian trail loop within the park. The vision for a trail system connecting Glendalough to the city of Battle Lake was already taking shape in 2008. A grant had been awarded in the 2013 federal highway bill for a connection trail along the airport.  With that pivotal connection segment secured, the Minnesota DNR became enthused about a trail loop within Glendalough State Park boundaries – an elusive trail concept called out in the early 1990s. Despite the DNR’s enthusiasm, budget constraints would not fund a trail in Glendalough.  Enter Nornes.  

“It was a typical bustling weekday morning at the Viking Café in Fergus Falls in early 2009 when I met Nornes for coffee to sketch out a funding strategy for the Glendalough trail loop,” Dan Malmstrom said. “Nornes agreed to write up a preliminary legislative bill and introduce it in the 2010 bonding session. An unconventional approach, but our only reasonable option. Local Sen. Dan Skogen agreed to do the same in the Senate.”

Fast forward a few months to a beautiful day in October of 2009. The entire State Senate Finance Committee met at the Glendalough Lodge to experience the park, see students arriving for outdoor classes, and hear our $350,000 bonding request.  Sen. Keith Langseth – committee chair – remarked, “this is a no-brainer” given the trail vision, awarded federal grant, and local Park Partners matching monies.  Bud then met with Gov. Tim Pawlenty to ensure the Glendalough trail loop did not fall victim to the line item veto.  The 2018 bill passed and the DNR added several hundred thousand dollars to the trail project with a new Annie Battle Lake bridge, geology and archeology survey funding.

The second project, the new Glendalough Trail and visitor center, was a near repeat. As Glendalough popularity soared from the 2014 trail opening, the need for a legitimate visitor and trail center became obvious. 

The Citizens Advisory Board developed plans for a new visitor center with the DNR and raised more than $200,000 of philanthropy. Again, the DNR budget did not contain resources to complete such a project amid growing deferred maintenance priorities across the state’s many aging parks. Time for creativity again. 

“After drafting preliminary language for a 2018 bonding bill to fund the new visitor center, I met with Nornes again. Nornes went to work in concert with Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen to introduce the Glendalough visitor center bill. They put Park Partners leaders directly in touch with influential senators and representatives in both parties to build enthusiasm for the bill. We were invited to St. Paul to testify before the Senate Finance Committee in session. The Minnesota Parks and Trails Council also voiced its strong support for the project to complement Nornes and Ingebrigtsen’s legislative prowess. The result? The House, Senate and governor approved $750,000 of bonding for the Glendalough Trail and Visitor Center. We are truly appreciative of Nornes’ effective Glendalough advocacy in St. Paul,” Malmstrom said. 

Over many years and conversations, Nornes never failed to include one fond request.  As an avid RV camper, Nornes would often ask, “Do you think the development plans at Glendalough will ever include RV campsites, even just a few out-the-way spots?”  As friends, we would casually banter the pros and cons and go on our way.  

One thing is clear, Nornes’ love for Glendalough will always bring him back to the park, and Glendalough welcomes him with evidence of his many contributions. Happy retirement Bud!

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