Current Briefs for RV Parks and Campgrounds

July 31, 2013 by · Comments Off on Current Briefs for RV Parks and Campgrounds 


From The Associated Press:

Minnesota State Parks are jumping on the latest trend in water sports with plans to rent stand-up paddleboards at eight parks.

Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials say it’s a good way to promote a new physical activity. Paddleboarding involves standing on a board similar to a surfboard and propelling oneself around with a long paddle.

The boards will be available at Blue Mounds, Glacial Lakes, Glendalough, Lake Shetek, McCarthy Beach, Myre-Big Island, Sakatah Lake and William O’Brien parks.

Parks and Trails spokeswoman Amy Barrett tells the West Central Tribune that paddleboarding is cool and the DNR wants to attract the next generation of state park visitors.


From the Watertown Daily Times:

Plans are in motion to create a campsite for recreational vehicles at Sandstoner Park.

The proposal calls for 12 sites, each with enough room for a large RV, a picnic bench and a fire pit.

“They won’t feel like they’re crammed in like sardines,” said village Planning and Development Director Frederick J. Hanss.

Electricity and water will be provided for each site, and the village is also considering providing Wi-Fi. Sewage will not be provided, so campers will need to dispose of their waste at the nearby sewer plant.

The park has more than three acres of parking lot, most of which has gone unused for years, according to Hanss. A segment of the lot near the river will be torn up to make room for the sites, so visitors will not have to camp on a slab of asphalt.

The estimated cost for the project is $164,000. The town and village will each contribute about $20,500, in hopes that the $123,000 remainder will be covered by a state grant.


2012 Storm Prompts Reforesting of Minn. Park

July 24, 2013 by · Comments Off on 2012 Storm Prompts Reforesting of Minn. Park 

A July 2012 storm that toppled trees at Minnesota’s Itasca State Park is giving officials a chance to accelerate plans to reforest part of one of the state’s most popular parks, according to an Associated Press report.

Itasca’s stands of huge red and white pines, some dating back 250 years or more, are a major reason why the park exists. The park contains 25 percent of the state’s old-growth pines. The blowdown severely damaged 600 state-managed acres, including 270 acres at a separate recreation area north of the park.

But park officials see it as an opportunity, resource specialist Chris Gronewold said. They’ve accelerated plans to reforest 500 acres in 10 years. Next year an additional 65 acres in the park will be replanted with pines as part of the 10-year plan.

“We’re looking for opportunities for reforestation. If there’s a pocket that I know of that has some significant blowdown on it, if it was logged 100 years ago, it’s an opportunity to do restoration,” Gronewold said.

If Gronewold had his way, more of the trees downed in the July 2 storm last year, which severely damaged about 275 acres within Itasca, would still be visible along Main Park Road. Dead trees provide habitat for everything from fungus to black-backed woodpeckers, according to a report from the St. Cloud Times.

“There are things in this ecosystem that are dependent on old-growth pines,” Gronewold said. “You don’t see that anymore. We don’t have 30-inch pine logs that are fallen over and decaying.”

But the expectations of 500,000 visitors a year force park managers to strike a balance.

Park Manager Bob Chance knows a big part of his job is customer service. People want to see the source of the Mississippi River. They want to see historical buildings. And, most of all, they want to see the majestic, tall pines when they drive along Lake Itasca, not downed trees that prompt questions about why the timber isn’t being harvested.

“That pristine drive, we were going to maintain that,” Chance said of post-storm cleanup decisions. “We did a pretty good job of hiding what happened.”

The rest of the logs will rot on the remaining, less visible acres, he said.

Park Visits Off 15% in Cold & Rainy Minnesota

June 6, 2013 by · Comments Off on Park Visits Off 15% in Cold & Rainy Minnesota 

Cold, wet spring in Minnesota dampens outdoor recreation.

The skin tone of Minnesotans might be pastier than normal this year.

It’s not just that the sun hasn’t been shining; people don’t seem to be going outside as much, if fishing and state parks are any indicators, the St. Cloud Times reported.

Fishing license sales are at the lowest level in at least 13 years, and sales of vehicle passes to state park are down as well, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Blame it on the weather, everyone figures.

“My assumption is that it’s primarily been the weather,” said Ed Boggess, director of fish and wildlife for the DNR. “I know we’re seeing the pattern with other outdoor activities.”

Ice lingered on the state’s prime fishing waters for days after the May 11 walleye opener, and several weekends since — including Memorial Day weekend — have featured conditions that were unseasonably cold, windy or rainy — or some combination of each.

Fishing license sales appear to be off historical averages by about 25%, according to DNR data dating back to 2000. The DNR had sold 470,000 fishing licenses as of June 1, compared with 596,000 last year at this time.

And sales of parks passes might be on pace to end a trend of increasing attendance since 2008. Through May, sales of annual vehicle parks permits were down 15% from last year, and sales of daily vehicle parks passes were down 35%. As a result, revenue is down nearly $219,000 from a year ago.

The loss of revenues could have ramifications for the outdoors.

Fishing license sales, for example, pay for fish stocking and lake monitoring.

“I don’t think we’re mathematically out of it yet,” Barrett said. “If we have great weather this summer, we can almost always count on being fully booked on all the holiday weekends. If we have great fall colors, we’ll get a lot of visitors then, and we see no reason the trend of increasing parks use will decline.”

Boggess said previous cold springs have led to lackluster fishing license sales that recovered when the weather improved come summer. Most fishing licenses sold are for the entire season, so from a revenue standpoint, it makes no difference whether someone goes fishing on the opener or waits until July 4.


State’s ‘I Can’ Teaches Kids How to Camp

April 15, 2013 by · Comments Off on State’s ‘I Can’ Teaches Kids How to Camp 

Families will learn how to pitch a tent, hook a fish, paddle a kayak or canoe, scale a cliff and shoot a bow at nearly 200 “I Can!” programs offered this summer at Minnesota state parks and on state water trails, the Kanabec County Times, Nora, Minn., reported.

The newly expanded “I Can!” series of outdoor programs are designed to introduce kids to camping, fishing, paddling, climbing and archery.

“We created the ‘I Can!’ series in response to research that showed declining participation in outdoor recreation by young families,” said Courtland Nelson, DNR Parks and Trails Division director. “These popular programs are designed to introduce the next generation to the outdoors.”

Since the series launched in 2010, thousands of people have been introduced to outdoor recreation and Minnesota state parks and trails. Participation in “I Can Camp!” totaled 877 in 2012, up 51% from the 582 who participated the first year.

All equipment is provided for the programs, along with mentoring from experienced instructors. Some programs require advance registration and a fee; others are free and allow visitors to drop in anytime.

A vehicle permit ($5/one-day or $25/year-round) is required to enter Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. A one-day permit is included with registration for an “I Can Camp!” program.

For more information about any of the programs in the “I Can!” series, including program dates, times, locations and other information, visit or call the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or toll-free (888) 646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Funding for the “I Can!” program series is 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% of the sales tax revenue and may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.

Geocaches in All 76 Minnesota State Parks

April 10, 2013 by · Comments Off on Geocaches in All 76 Minnesota State Parks 

Some say the more we focus on technology, the less we appreciate the world’s natural beauty. But over the past several years, Minnesota state parks have seen the opposite, WCCO-TV, Minneapolis, reported.

More than 100,000 hikers using GPS devices have been drawn into nature, looking for hidden treasure.

All 76 Minnesota state parks and state recreation areas have collectible cards and clues hidden somewhere.

Visitors follow satellite coordinates to reach them, and those who find all of the caches get to see how different our state can be — from the Sawtooth Mountains along the North Shore to the rolling prairies of the southwest, and the river bluffs in southeastern Minnesota.

Retired Carleton professor Richard Nau and his wife, Sharol, have been on geocaching trips to Europe, Central America, the Caribbean and throughout North America. They’re grateful that the DNR is helping them see so much of their home state by offering its own geocaching adventure.

“There’s some beautiful landscape in these parks,” Richard Nau said. “They’re certainly far away from the Twin Cities but once you’re there, there’s a lot to see.”

Twenty-five parks have loaner GPS units, with instructions, that visitors can check out for free.

This year, Dena Sievert and Dennis Lindell hope to complete their fourth time around the state.

“It’s just a lot more fun to do it together,” said Sievert, “especially with somebody who knows you and you can draw on their strengths.”

Sievert says she’s the more persistent geocacher, while Lindell takes care of the more physical parts, including any climbing, crawling or reaching into dark spaces.

“It provides exercise, it’s a challenge and it’s an adventure,” he said.

They spent their honeymoon in a few state parks in 2002. They’ve since seen them all, repeatedly, and they have the collector cards to prove it.

“Bear Head Lake, we really enjoyed that,” said Sievert. “That’s one of our favorite state parks.”

But as it turns out, geocaching has helped them in more ways than they ever imagined. They got divorced.

However, geocaching was the one thing they didn’t want to give up when their marriage went south. So they still get together several times a year, going whichever direction their GPS units take them.

“We’re not so great at living together,” said Sievert, “but we still like to travel and geocache together.”


Minn. Parks Strive to Reduce Carbon Footprint

February 4, 2013 by · Comments Off on Minn. Parks Strive to Reduce Carbon Footprint 

Several Minnesota state parks are replacing old gas guzzlers with electric cars, installing solar panels that help generate electricity for many of its park buildings and visitor centers and rehabbing those buildings to use less energy.

As reported by the Alexandria Echo Press, the efforts are helping the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) cut its overall energy use and reduce its carbon footprint.

“We’re really trying to take a comprehensive approach to energy reduction overall,” said Peter Hark, operations director for the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division.

In 2012 — through parks projects and new energy saving practices throughout the agency — the DNR will have cut its energy use by 6% in two years for a savings of $800,000. That puts the agency on track to meet a target Gov. Mark Dayton set for state government to reduce its energy use 20% by the end of 2015.

Last year six solar systems were installed. This year, at least seven more installations are planned. In the last several years the DNR has doubled its renewable energy-generating capacity and ended 2012 with 22 photovoltaic (solar) and wind installations throughout the state, mainly at its parks buildings.

“DNR state parks are a major producer of renewable energy in the state,” Hark said.

To view the full article click here.

Cabins Lure Winter Campers to Minn. Parks

January 10, 2013 by · Comments Off on Cabins Lure Winter Campers to Minn. Parks 

The red dots mark Minnesota state parks where year-round camping, often in lodges and cabins, is available. Map courtesy of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Over the past few years, Minnesota State Parks and Trails has been adding cabins to state parks as a way to lure people during the warm season who, for whatever reason, aren’t up for pitching a tent, the Pioneer Press, St. Paul, reported.

As an added benefit, the heated cabins provide a base for people to explore the parks in winter. Ten years ago, there were 23 cabins scattered around the state’s parks. Today there are 83, including 67 with electric heat or wood stoves, and the state plans to build its inventory to several hundred.

The cabins have turned out to be popular, with many booked solid during the summer and on most weekends in winter. Not surprisingly, parks near the Twin Cities — including Afton State Park with four cabins, William O’Brien with four and Wild River with six — are among the most frequently reserved. The most popular winter destination is Lake Maria, between the Twin Cities and St. Cloud, which has three cabins heated with wood stoves.

Click here to read the entire story.

Minnesota is Adding Fire Restrictions for Parks

September 19, 2012 by · Comments Off on Minnesota is Adding Fire Restrictions for Parks 

The Minnesota Department to Natural Resources (DNR) is adding restrictions on campfires and other fires starting Sunday because of worsening drought in northwestern and central portions of the state.

According to a report by the Duluth news Tribune, the DNR will ban campfires starting at 1 a.m. Sunday except in a residential or cabin yard or in a staffed campground, such as at a resort or state park.

The ban also includes brush and debris fires and fireworks outside cities and towns.

The counties included in the fire ban are Becker, Beltrami, Benton, Cass (north of Highway 200), Clearwater, Douglas, Hubbard, Kanabec, Kittson, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Marshall, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Ottertail, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake, Roseau, Stearns, Todd and Wadena.

The state restrictions follow the Superior National Forest, which has banned daytime campfires in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Campfires are allowed after 7 p.m.

Some forested areas of the state are more than six inches short for rainfall over the summer and early autumn and officials are worried that any fires that start will spread quickly.

The DNR and other wildfire agencies in the state have brought in additional resources and placed them on a Level 5 alert, the highest planning level. Officials also are urging caution with charcoal fires, which are allowed, and with vehicles that could spur sparks in grassy areas.

Fight for Minnesota Legacy Dollars Heats Up

August 13, 2012 by · Comments Off on Fight for Minnesota Legacy Dollars Heats Up 

Fight over money in Land of 10,000 Lakes.

The battle between greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities over state funding for parks and trails is heating up again, the Winona Daily News reported.

At stake is about $40 million annually from Minnesota Legacy Amendment funds that are divided among Twin Cities parks, state parks and regional parks in greater Minnesota.

Earlier this year, 10 Twin Cities agencies passed a resolution calling the current split unfair. In response, cities and counties in the rest of Minnesota have passed their own resolutions calling for an even greater share.

It’s likely to be a contentious issue that spills into next year’s legislative session, the St. Cloud Times ( reported Saturday.

“Everybody knows the pie is only a certain size,” said Chuck Wocken, Stearns County’s parks director.

In 2008, Minnesota voters approved the Legacy Amendment, a sales tax increase for the outdoors, environment and arts.

In the first round of Legacy funding in 2009, 43 percent went to the Twin Cities, 43 percent went to the Department of Natural Resources for state parks and 14 percent went to a statewide grants program, for which both greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities could apply.

In the second round, the Twin Cities metro still received 43 percent, while the DNR received 37 percent and the rest of the state 20 percent. Twin Cities projects could no longer apply for the outstate portion.

Republican state Sen. John Pederson of St. Cloud pushed last session to eliminate a $500,000 cap on greater Minnesota projects and a requirement that local cities and counties match the funds. Those requirements didn’t apply to the seven-county Twin Cities metro area.

“It’s just an issue where we need to be treated fairly,” he said. “There is an abundance of parks for metro residents to use on a daily basis … There’s a lot of catch-up that needs to be done in greater Minnesota.”

But earlier this year, 10 Twin Cities parks agencies passed a resolution calling the division unfair. In response, members of the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Coalition have passed a resolution of their own, calling for an even greater share of the Legacy funds.

“We are doing our best to make the argument that Central Minnesota has been in a funding deficit for decades,” said Dan Larson, the coalition’s lobbyist. The Legacy Amendment “has given local governments a horizon to shoot for,” he said.

The coalition is represented on the Parks and Trails Legacy Funding Advisory Committee, which will make a recommendation this fall on how the funds should be split to DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr.

One of the arguments that Twin Cities agencies have made is that greater Minnesota doesn’t have a well-developed park system to distribute the funds.

Boe Carlson, associate superintendent for the Three Rivers Park District in the Twin Cities, said one of the committee’s goals is to gather better information on regional parks in greater Minnesota, including where they are and who is using them.

“Our position has been, ‘Let’s get some better data.’ Let’s get some better understanding of what those visitation numbers are, because then we can make a better apples-to-apples comparison,” Carlson said.

Outstate Minnesota parks advocates argue that the comparisons aren’t fair. Although the Twin Cities metro might generate more sales tax, many of the commodities — such as timber, crops and iron ore — are produced outside of the metro area and then transported to the metro. They also point out that many Twin Cities residents travel to greater Minnesota to visit parks.


Minnesota Parks Now Offering Rock Climbing

August 6, 2012 by · Comments Off on Minnesota Parks Now Offering Rock Climbing 

The “I Can!” program in Minnesota state parks is helping people in the state take the first step in rock climbing, according to KELO-TV, Sioux Falls, S.D.

“We get them outfitted with harnesses, shoes and talk about what they are going to be doing on the wall,” said Katie Heimer, a field instructor at  Blue Mountain State Park near Luverne, Minn.

“We’ve had anyone from really tiny little kids that we’re making sure have their helmets on; our next step, we have people in their 50s,” said Heimer.

Eleanor Dorn is just one of many participants eager to get their hands on the rocks after her grandmother suggested she try out the class.

“She said I’d be really interested in it because I like climbing and so she signed me up for it,” said Dorn.

And Dorn isn’t the only one who’s excited. The class had more then 40 participants over the weekend. And for Heimer, the appeal is obvious.

“It’s such a great way to work out and a great way to get outdoors and it’s a really great activity for people to do,” said Heimer.

The program also holds classes at different Minnesota state parks for fishing, camping and paddling.

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