woman carrying sticks in DNR hard hat
May 4, 2021
  •  
  •  

DNR Update: What’s happening at parks and trails?

An update from Arielle Courtney, DNR

Rejoining our effort

Greetings, friends! I am back at work after nearly a year of parental leave, extended by the challenges of COVID. While I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to have spent additional time with my daughter during an unprecedented year, it is also good to be back at work supporting our beautiful state parks and trails. We enjoyed many days outside, regardless of weather and she is already captivated with watching birds and examining wildflowers. I hope all of you have found solace in nature during these times, as I have.

You may have also noticed that many other people discovered our parks and trails this past year! In 2020 alone, our state park visitation increased about 25 percent. Increased visitation is a wonderful thing, but it also brings about operational and maintenance challenges for our facilities and natural resources.

While we need your help now more than ever, we remain cautious about resuming to “business as usual” given the uncertainty of COVID variants and their spread in Minnesota. Therefore, we followed the requirements of Stay Safe Minnesota Executive Orders and developed special guidance for how to proceed with operations this summer in order to keep our staff, volunteers, and the public safe and healthy. And as statewide guidance continues to loosen up, we are ecstatic to reengage with you on this important work.

Key Updates for 2021 Spring and Summer State Park Operations

By sharing the below summary about our operations this summer, I hope you have a slightly clearer snapshot of what to expect as you plan friends group activities over the next few months.

volunteer pounding in a t-postUse of volunteers

  • Limited use allowed in trail and resource work, campground hosting, customer service, interpretive programs and event support.
  • Some activities may require DNR regional leadership approval.
  • DNR volunteer guidance and approval documents needed (available from park or trail supervisor).

On-site DNR interpretive programs

  • Allowed, indoor events will require face coverings and social distancing.
  • Households are not strictly required to wear face coverings for outdoor programs, but must remain 6 feet apart at all times. Face coverings are highly recommended if the outdoor program involves an activity where social distancing may be difficult.
  • Capacity is limited through registration (max 15 people indoors, 50 people if completely outdoors).
  • Households remain 6 feet apart.
  • No use of participant held props.

Ranger stations, visitor centers, and trail centers

  • These facilities will be open but people are highly encouraged to do their business on our website or at self-service kiosks when possible.
  • You will see more use of walk-up windows and touch-free transactions.
  • Allowed indoor capacity will be limited and based on Stay Safe MN Executive Orders.

Indoor permitted special events/uses

  • Allowed according to Stay Safe MN guidance for outdoor recreation and facilities.
  • Permittees must have a PAT Visitor Services Preparedness Plan, including a completed COVID checklist (contact unit supervisor for this).
  • DNR regional leadership approval required.

Outdoor permitted special events/uses

  • Allowed according to Stay Safe MN guidance for outdoor recreation and facilities.
  • Permittees must have a PAT Visitor Services Preparedness Plan, including a completed COVID checklist (contact unit supervisor for this).
  • DNR regional leadership approval required.
  • Depending on nature of event, capacity may be different and require following guidance for Entertainment and Meeting Venues.

Contact us: When in doubt, call the park or visit the DNR website for updated information.

What else is going on at the DNR?

As many of you probably remember, I attended the 2019 friends group workshops organized by the Parks & Trails Council and there was much discussion about setting annual shared goals with your park/trail supervisors, completing memoranda of understanding, and other resources. Here is what you can expect from us over the next few months as I get back to work and the DNR resumes non-COVID activities.

  • We have recommitted to identifying ways that we can form agreements with friends groups that are not overly burdensome and put friends members at legal or financial risk. This is a work in progress, so stay tuned.
  • Please do continue to stay in touch with your local park or trail contact and revisit your goals together. For assistance in these discussions, feel free to refer to some of the resources we shared at the 2019 workshops on goal setting. I am also available to facilitate these planning sessions between friends groups and local park or trail staff.
  • I am revising a “Friends Group Handbook” that will provide DNR staff with additional direction on how to successfully collaborate with friends groups.

Thanks as always for your incredible support of Minnesota’s state parks and trails. We are so fortunate to have “friends” like you.

Be well,
Arielle

Partnership Development Consultant

Minnesota DNR, Parks & Trails Division