Kids bike away from the park building
February 3, 2021

2019-2020 Youth Engagement Grant Projects In Review

In 2019, Parks & Trails Council launched a grant program designed as a partnership with friends groups to engage youth in parks and trails. In this first year of the program we began working with eight friends groups who identified innovative ways to engage youth and began planning events for fall 2019 and spring 2020. While the fall events were successfully completed, the pandemic, which led to strict social-distancing protocols in March, prevented the spring plans from happening. Nonetheless, these groups adapted their plans to meet the moment. See below for a description about each of the projects funded under P&TC’s friends group grant program.

By the Numbers




Friends Group Partners

Funds granted

Local cash match


Friends of Blue Mounds State Park

Youth Cliffline Day

The friends group organized a youth rock climbing day in partnership with Luverne Community Education and Roca Climbing. The event was delayed twice due to weather and finally carried out with COVID protocols in place. Kids were provided gear and taught how to climb safely. Then, they got to climb a route on the Sioux Quartzite cliff. According to the friends group, “park staff were even able to document some local wildlife—a skunk and its baby.” This certainly added to the excitement of the day! Kids were also sent home with a knot tying activity.

In preparation for the climbing day, the friends group hosted an “Adopt-A-Crag” day, in which volunteers removed invasive species from the climbing area.

Learn more about these friends

Gitchi Gami State Trail pinpointed on Minnesota

Gitchi-Gami Trail Association

Bike to Birches Field Trip

Purchased three bikes and four helmets to start a bike fleet at a local elementary school in Two Harbors. The friends group, in partnership with the school and DNR, organized a “Bike to Birches” field trip day, where the 5th grade class biked from their school, along the Gitchi-Gami Trail, to two state parks, and participated in science-based activities throughout the day. The bike fleet will be used for future field trips on the state trail.

Learn more about these friends

Friends of Lake Bemidji State Park

Water Quality Kit

Originally, the group planned to support transportation for kids from the Boys and Girls Club to visit the park throughout the summer. However, with COVID, the plan changed. This park, famous for its lake, now has extra tools to engage youth in learning about and appreciating vital water resources. The friends worked with the park naturalist to buy and assemble a water quality kit that includes waders, nets, and test kits for nitrogen, oxygen and pH. Park staff plan to use these materials for ongoing programs and field trips with community and school groups to explore the bog, marsh, stream, and large lake.

Learn more about these friends

Friends of Lake Maria State Park

3rd Grade Park Field Trip

The friends group hosted two field trips for 159 3rd grade students. In partnership with the school, the friends group organized eight different activity stations, which allowed students to explore the natural history and science of the park—turtles, bluebirds, water quality, and more.

Learn more about these friends

Map showing location of Minneopa State Park

Friends of Minneopa State Park

Discovery Kits

This project was originally intended to support youth science field trips to the park, however, COVID changed that plan. The group adjusted the scope and developed three sets of “Discovery Kits.” Each set of ten kits has a theme—animal tracks, birds, and wildflowers. The kits have been made available for local teachers to use with their students, both in the classroom and at home. As the pandemic subsides, the park naturalist plans to use these for public programs at Minneopa, Flandrau and Fort Ridgely.

Learn more about these friends

Map showing location of Tettegouche state park

Friends of Tettegouche State Park

Toddler Time and Activity Kits

This project supported the park’s youth engagement efforts by securing materials and activity kits. The project materials helped launch the weekly “Toddler Time” program. However, it was halted due to COVID. The friends plan to help get that program up and running when it’s possible. Additionally, kits for solar and wind energy as well as historic fire starting were developed to be used during naturalist programs at the park and at community events.

Learn more about these friends

MN Map pinpointing Whitewater State Park

Friends of Whitewater State Park

Video Equipment

Originally, the grant was meant to support field trips to the park. However, due to COVID, those were cancelled. Now, with newly purchased video equipment, the park staff at Whitewater have begun developing videos for virtual programming and outreach. While our society is practicing social distance due to the pandemic, this outlet has gained importance and will allow staff to continue to engage with the public. The first video produced was for local college students to learn about Park Rx. Another is in the works for high school students to learn about snake conservation and another on backwater kayaking as part of the MnDNR’s Becoming an Outdoors Woman program.

park ranger speaking outside in screenshot of video
Learn more about these friends

Map of Mn with Wild River State Park pinpointed

Friends of Wild River State Park

A Day at the Park Field Trip

The friends group organized a field trip for 49 local K-6 students, many of which had never visited the park before. The kids rotated through multiple activities, including geocaching, a photo scavenger hunt, nature hike, nature sing-a-long, and owl pellet dissection.

Learn more about these friends

Thank you and congratulations to the eight friends groups who implemented these youth engagement projects. Their hard work and dedication for their park or trail and connecting young people to them is evident!

About Ashley Pethan