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Minnesota state parks report increases in permit sales and overnight stays in 2013

Web posted February 11, 2014
Sales of Minnesota state park permits increased in 2013, an indication that more people are connecting with the outdoors, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Sales of year-round permits totaled 136,300 in 2013, up 2 percent from 2012 and 21 percent from 2008, when Minnesota voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. The Parks and Trails Fund receives 14.25 percent of the sales tax revenue and may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.

“We got off to a slow start last year due to the cold, wet spring, so it was gratifying to finish 2013 ahead of 2012,” said Courtland Nelson, director of the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division. “We’re obviously pleased to see evidence of increasing interest in Minnesota’s 76 state park and recreation areas. This news comes at a time when national parks and many other states are reporting significant declines in their visits and overnight stays.”

Other signs that participation in outdoor recreation at Minnesota state parks and trails is increasing include:

• Sales of one-day state park permits have increased 15 percent since 2008.

• Site nights have increased 10 percent since 2008. (A site night is tallied when an overnight camping or lodging unit is occupied for one night.)

• Participation in interpretive programs has increased 37 percent since 2008.

• Participation in Legacy-funded I Can Camp! programs has increased 110 percent since the program began in 2010.

• Unique views of state parks pages on the DNR website increased from 8.2 million in 2012 to 8.4 million in 2013.

Nelson attributes the increase in the popularity of Minnesota state parks to a general trend of more families “stay-cationing” to save money, programs and special events designed to attract visitors to parks during the “off-peak” seasons and continued high satisfaction ratings on customer service from visitors (trip satisfaction is currently as high as it has been since measurements began 25 years ago; 83 percent of visitors surveyed in 2012 rated their experience in the “excellent” range).

He also credits Legacy-funded outreach efforts, including an active presence on Facebook and Twitter, the addition of virtual tours online and the installation of touch-screen information kiosks at Rosedale Center, the Minnesota Zoo and other family-oriented locations throughout the Twin Cities.

The Minnesota state parks yearround vehicle permit ($25) provides unlimited access to all 76 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas for 12 months from the month of purchase. The 2014 year-round permit features a photo of Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, where a 25-mile single-track mountain bike trail system opened in 2011, with support from Legacy funding. Aaron Hautala, a Cuyuna-based photographer, shot the photo on Miner’s Mountain trail in September.

“The view from the top of Miner’s Mountain is part of what makes Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area stand apart in the state of Minnesota,” Hautala said. “It’s a former mining site, and it’s visually breathtaking. It’s one of my favorite places to ride.”

Year-round Minnesota state parks permits are available by calling the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or tollfree, 888-646-6367. They can also be purchased at:
• Minnesota state park and recreation areas with staffed offices.
• REI stores in Bloomington, Roseville, and Maple Grove.
• The Minnesota DNR License Center, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul.
• Hennepin County Service Centers in Brooklyn Center, Edina, Maple Grove, Minneapolis and Minnetonka.
• Minnesota’s Bookstore, St. Paul.

One-day permits ($5) can be purchased at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas.

By purchasing a permit, you help maintain and improve the natural resources, facilities, and education and outreach programs that make Minnesota’s state parks among the best in the nation,” Nelson said.

Find more information online or contact the DNR Information Center at info.dnr@state.mn.us or call the DNR Information Center between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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