hikers stand and rest while physical distancing
July 1, 2021
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DNR update: COVID restrictions loosened, goal and project planning

An update from Arielle Courtney, DNR

Summer is now in full swing, and so are our campgrounds, trails, water access sites, and state forest recreation areas. And thankfully they will continue that way as the state avoided a government shutdown when the state legislature came to an agreement on the DNR’s budget in late June. For more information on the Omnibus Environment Bill that includes the DNR’s budget, visit the legislature’s website here.

COVID-19 Operational Updates

Soon after we shared some updates on COVID-19 guidelines at the June P&TC webinar, we received new and different direction from the Governor. To summarize, current guidance has been significantly loosened in terms of face coverings and social distancing. However, we still have some requirements and our staff will remain cautious as the new COVID-19 variants play out.

General guidance:

  1. DNR poster masks are encouraged for unvaccinated visitorsMasks: DNR staff, volunteers, interns, vendors and contractors who have been vaccinated are no longer required to wear face coverings. Unvaccinated employees, contractors, vendors, volunteers and interns must continue to wear face coverings indoors or when 6 feet of social distance cannot be maintained. You will not be asked about your vaccination status.
  2. Vehicle sharing: Vaccinated employees, volunteers and interns may share vehicles. Unvaccinated individuals should not travel in the same vehicle with other unvaccinated people. Any person, vaccinated or unvaccinated, may choose to travel separately if they prefer.
  3. In-person events: Vaccinated employees, volunteers and interns may attend in-person events without restriction. Virtual options remain strongly preferred for unvaccinated employees, volunteers and interns.
  4. Health screening: Health screening requirements remain in place.
  5. Cleaning: Increased cleaning and disinfecting practices will continue.

Volunteer activities:

In terms of volunteering activities, not much has changed. Regional DNR leadership approval for volunteer activities is still needed and we are still prioritizing volunteering that focuses on primarily trail and resource work, campground hosting, customer service, interpretive programs and event support.

Hosting events and programs:

Indoor or outdoor events hosted or organized by friends groups are also still required to implement a written COVID-19 Preparedness Plan that is consistent with Stay Safe MN Universal Guidance (contact your local staff for this or send me an e-mail at Arielle.courtney@state.mn.us). For youth programs, there may be additional guidance, check with your local staff person and review Stay Safe MN guidance for Certified Child Care, Youth Programs, and Camps.

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

Goal Planning Sessions and Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs)

Although I mentioned this in the May e-newsletter, I wanted to remind folks that I am available to support goal and project planning sessions in coordination with your local DNR staff. We recently held a goal planning meeting with the Friends of Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, and are hoping the focused discussion will provide helpful clarity on how to proceed with important projects over the next year.

Feel free to contact me if this is of interest to you, and I will also be in communication with park and trail supervisors to think through scheduling these meetings, likely for the fall or winter.

We are also still working towards ensuring MOUs are signed with all of the friends groups, and understand the concerns that have arisen for some groups on this topic. We are working internally to develop a few different MOU templates that can be applied depending on the activities your group may do; with the intention that fewer requirements would be needed for groups that don’t do things like fundraising.

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