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Friday, September 18, 2015

Minnesota state parks report big increase in visitors

A post-Labor Day report from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources shows a significant increase in the number of people buying permits and staying overnight at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas in 2015 compared with 2014. Erika Rivers, director of the DNR's Parks and Trails Division, expects the upward trend to continue as fall color spreads across the state.

"We are anticipating a lot of visitors at parks this fall, enjoying good weather and fall colors," she said.

The new report shows that year-to-date (Jan. 1-Sept. 7) sales of one-day permits in 2015 are up 16 percent over the same time period in 2014, and sales of year-round permits are up 12 percent. Overnight stays also are up by 9 percent compared with last year. These results continue the trend of steady increases over the past several years.

Earlier data showed that, between fiscal year 2013 (July 1 to June 30) and fiscal year 2015:

  • Sales of one-day vehicle permits ($5) increased 24 percent.
  • Sales of year-round vehicle permits ($25) increased 19 percent.
  • Overnight stays increased 13 percent.

"We're pleased to see such a significant increase in the number of people making time to get outdoors," said Rivers, "and we hope today's visitors will pass along their love of the outdoors to the next generation so that the trend continues."

To appeal to that next generation, the Parks and Trails Division has added mountain bike trails, yurts and Wi-Fi at state parks. It also has added kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals, free use of fishing kits and GPS units, and a series of I Can! programs that teach beginners how to camp, fish, rock climb, paddle and more. New outreach strategies include touch-screen kiosks, social media and a variety of online trip-planning tools, including virtual tours and ParkFinder, which sorts parks by desired features, such as whether they have a beach, a bike trail and naturalist programs.

"Legacy funding has made many of these updates possible," Rivers said. The Parks and Trails Fund, created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008, 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.

For more information, visit www.mndnr.gov, email or call the DNR Information Center at info.dnr@state.mn.us or 651-296-6157, 888-646-6367, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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