DNR staff host a public input tent
August 29, 2019

Demystifying DNR management and master plans

An update from Arielle Courtney, DNR

Management and master plans—sounds familiar, right? You may have heard park and trail staff talk about their management or master plans. Perhaps you have even seen one of these plans or provided input during the planning process. We view these plans as key guidance and direction for the DNR at the operational and site-level, but they are often confused with other plans or their purpose may be misinterpreted. Let me try to demystify our plans for you!

What’s the difference between a management and master plan?

At DNR, we use “management plan” to refer to an operational and future-oriented plan for a specific state park or recreation area. We use “master plan” when talking about state trails. Much of the planning process is similar, but the goals and operational guidance differ due to the fact that one unit is a patch of land and the other is a linear corridor.

What type of information is included in a plan?

Park Management Plans

  • Natural and cultural resources
  • Interpretive services
  • Recreational use and visitor services
  • Park boundaries
  • Park operations

Trail Management Plans

  • Trail uses
  • Trail alignment
  • Trail management
  • Natural resources
  • Cultural resources

Plans also include a description of the public input and implementation processes.

Group talks about park or trail plan
State Parks and Trails Director Erika Rivers, third from left, at her first S’more & More event Saturday at the Upper Sioux Agency State Park. Tom Cherveny/Tribune

Where can I find the management or master plan for my park or trail?

Many of our plans are on the DNR website, although some of the older plans are only available as hardcopies that are located at DNR’s central office or with your park or trail manager.

My park or trail plan is quite old, when will the plan be updated?

Great question, and one that we receive a lot. You would be surprised how many aspects of the plans do stay relevant over time. However, many of them do need updating or a full redo. We sometimes amend plans to update them for an issue that has changed – a boundary adjustment, a new facility, a new authorized trail use, etc. – while the rest of the plan may still be relevant and not be need immediate attention.

We recently finished doing a “continuous improvement” project on the planning process to understand how we can more efficiently complete plans and reach a broader audience of stakeholders for input. We hope to have clearer next steps about moving forward with new plans soon.

How does this plan relate to other DNR plans I’ve heard about?

We also use the Parks and Trails Legacy Plan, the System Plan, and the DNR’s Conservation Agenda as key documents that help us manage into the future. Management and master plans are much more specific to a park or trail and are more operational than some of our other strategic plans. The important thing to remember is that our strategic plans guide the entire state system. Even if there are goals related to increased programming or development mentioned in our strategic plans, that won’t occur in every unit because we don’t have the capacity to manage and maintain new things at every site. You can find out more about those plans on our website.

If you have questions about the planning process, feel free to contact our Parks and Trails Policy and Planning Supervisor, Andrew Korsberg at andrew.korsberg@state.mn.us.

Happy trails,


Partnership Development Consultant

Minnesota DNR, Parks & Trails Division

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