Think tank highlights Minnesota’s most ‘outrageous examples of government waste’

The organization labels the projects as “silly spending that invokes a facepalm for any common-sense person.”

Treetop Trail project/americanexperiment.org

The Center of the American Experiment, a Minnesota-based think tank, is asking residents to vote for the winner of the “Golden Turkey Award,” which is awarded semi-annually to “the most outrageous example of government waste.”

“The Golden Turkey Award is bestowed upon the most bird-brained examples of waste in state government,” the Center says. The four nominated projects demonstrate “silly spending that invokes a facepalm for any common-sense person.”

The first nominee is the Treetop Trail at the Minnesota Zoo, which will be an elevated walking trail created from the failed monorail system that was shut down in 2013.

“Every year the state-run zoo comes to the legislature and begs for money for their latest attraction,” the Center’s description reads. The trail project is funded by $13 million from the 2020 bonding bill, making it the zoo’s latest “boondoggle.”

The second option is the Goose Creek Rest Stop on Highway 35 between St. Paul and Duluth, which was refurbished using $7.2 million from the Department of Transportation. “Curved glass, Brazilian Ipe wood, a modern play area and ‘bathrooms fit for a fancy hotel’” make up the newly redone rest stop.

Goose Creek Rest Area (photo from VJAA website)

“No one can answer why they used taxpayer money for such a fancy design, and transportation officials are vowing never to let it happen again,” the Center says, claiming it will petition to have a Golden Turkey Award plaque put up in the lobby if it wins the honor.

The third option is an arts center in the small town of Chatfield, Minnesota, south of Rochester. The Chatfield Center for the Arts received $8.7 million to “improve its facility — a huge amount of money for a town with fewer than 3,000 residents,” the description states.

The last contender for the Golden Turkey Award is the City of Duluth for providing $1.1 million to Spirit Mountain at the beginning of each year, even though the ski resort has been losing money and skiers regularly every season.

“The Golden Turkey nomination committee humbly recommends that Duluth get out of the skiing business and concentrate on core city functions like streets and public safety,” the Center writes.

The public can vote here for the Golden Turkey Award.