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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dakota County offering Master Recycler/Composter classes this spring

Dakota County is offering Master Recycler/Composter classes to provide instruction on waste prevention, recycling and composting. The purpose of the classes is to create a volunteer pool of knowledgeable residents who inspire and teach others in the community to reduce waste and recycle more at home and work.
The program extends six weeks with a three-hour class each week and is open to people who live or work in Dakota County. Participants will gain education from experts, receive a handbook, engage in hands-on demonstrations and go on field trips to relevant sites.
Once classes are complete, participants will volunteer 30 hours putting their skills to work to help others in the community learn how to:
  • Reduce the amount of natural resources used
  • Reuse goods
  • Recycle more at different locations
Volunteer activities include staffing informational booths at community events, making presentations, and working on special projects in their neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces. Course graduates become certified Master Recycler/Composters when they complete their 30-hour commitment.
Master Recycler/Composter classes will be held from 6–9 p.m. Tuesdays, April 28–June 2, at the Dodge Nature Center, 1715 Charlton St., West St. Paul. Cost is $30 and covers course materials and field trip transportation.
For more information or to apply for the classes, visit and search master recycler or call Jennifer Kedward at 952-891-7043. The deadline for applications is April 24.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Learn to camp, paddle and more at Minnesota state parks

Registration for I Can Camp! and other skill-building programs begins March 20, the first day of spring 

People who lack the experience or equipment to go on a camping, canoeing or fishing trip should consider signing up for one of the many introductory programs offered at Minnesota state parks and trails in 2015.

Reservations are now being taken for the following beginner-level programs, which start in June and continue through the end of August:

  • I Can Camp! – Develop (or brush up on) fire-starting and camp cooking skills, and stay overnight in tents, complete with air mattresses, that sleep up to six people ($50 for one-night programs or $75 for two-night programs).
  • I Can Paddle! – Get out on the water for some guided canoeing, kayaking, sea kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding practice ($15 per boat and up).
  • I Can Climb! – Experience the thrill of rock climbing with instruction provided by trained professionals from Vertical Endeavors Guided Adventures ($10 per person).
  • I Can Mountain Bike! – Learn riding techniques and ride mountain bike trails with guides from the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Club ($25 per person).

The Minnesota state parks and trails I Can! series also includes I Can Fish! and Archery in the Parks programs, which are both free and require no reservation. 

"If you'd like to create some unforgettable outdoor experiences with your kids but don't know how to get started, the I Can! skill-building programs are designed for you," said Erika Rivers, director of Minnesota state parks and trails. "Minnesota has amazing state parks, trails and water trails, and we want to spark interest in more families to get out and enjoy them."

No experience is necessary for any of these programs. Instruction and essential equipment is provided. Vehicle permits ($5 for a one-day permit or $25 for a year-round permit) are required to enter Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. Registration for the I Can Camp! programs includes a one-day permit.

Registration and more information
For more information about any of the programs—including program dates, times, locations, and minimum age requirements, visit or contact the DNR Information Center at or call 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

To register, visit or call 866-857-2757 (8 a.m.–8 p.m. daily, except holidays).

The series is made possible with funding from the Parks and Trails Fund, created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008. The Parks and Trails Fund receives 14.25 percent of the three-eighths percent sales tax revenue that may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Governor’s budget proposal would help maintain vitality of state parks and bolster local economies

More than 8 million people visit Minnesota state parks each year with nearly 1.3 million of them traveling from other states or countries. This year, Gov. Mark Dayton has recommended a much-needed boost in funding for Minnesota state parks and recreation areas to ensure that they remain well-maintained attractions.

The economic benefits to Greater Minnesota communities that host state parks can be significant. In 2012, visitors to Minnesota state parks spent $231 million annually on their trips, supporting thousands of local jobs across Minnesota.

The additional funding proposed by the governor would allow state parks to continue operating at present service levels, providing for 154,000 hours of customer service and keeping many parks open into Minnesota's beautiful fall season.

"Parks and trails give people a reason to travel. They are a cornerstone of Minnesota's $13 billion tourism industry," said Erika Rivers, director of the DNR's Parks and Trails Division. "Local spending by park visitors on gas, food, lodging and other items creates major benefits for Greater Minnesota communities."

The return to the economy from a state park visitor is roughly $25 per day. Each year, the magnifier effect of this spending generates an estimated $372 million in total business sales, according to DNR research.

Visitor interest in Minnesota's state parks and trails has continued to grow. Year-end numbers from 2014 show that permit sales are up 24 percent and overnight stays are up 11 percent from 2008. In 2008, Minnesota citizens approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, which has helped fund state park improvements and outreach efforts. These parks and trails investments have helped foster tourism and bolster local economies, according to Rivers.

"We've expanded the park system considerably in recent years with the acquisition of land for Lake Vermilion – Soudan Underground Mine State Park and La Salle Lake State Recreation Area, and the addition of a 25-mile mountain bike trails system at Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area," Rivers said. "The additional funding the Governor is proposing will offset the cost of operating and maintaining a growing system for a growing number of customers."

Minnesota state parks popular attractions 
Minnesota's state parks and trails are some of the most popular outdoor attractions in the state, drawing millions of visitors each year. Gov. Dayton's proposed investment in the state parks system will help ensure they remain able to serve growing demand.

  • 8,881,746 visitors – In 2014, Minnesota's state parks hosted nearly 9 million visitors.
  • 66 state parks – Minnesota is home to 66 state parks and 9 recreation areas, 8 state waysides, 590 paved miles of state trails, and 62 state forest campgrounds and day-use areas.
  • 72 percent – Repeated DNR surveys suggest that more than two-thirds of Minnesotans who visit a state park make a return visit (2001: 74 percent, 2007: 67 percent, 2012: 72 percent).

More on the Governor's State Parks Budget Proposal 
Dayton's proposal would increase the state park operations budget by $4.6 million in fiscal year 2016 (ending June 30, 2016) and $4.9 million for fiscal year 2017. These increases would be added to the annual state parks and trails operations budget of $34.6 million.

The proposed funding increase would come partly from a general fund increase and partly from a modest increase in daily and year-round vehicle permit fees. Under the Governor's proposal, annual passes would increase to $30 from $25, and one-day permit fees would increase to $6 from $5. Vehicle permit fees have not increased since 2003.