volunteers discussing how to best approach the protective fencing
November 29, 2021

DNR Update – Gratitude, new leadership, and 2022 goals

An update from Arielle Courtney, DNR

I hope everyone is staying well and enjoying the holiday season so far as we approach the end of the year. I can confidently say on behalf of the DNR and all of the staff you work with at our state parks and trails that we are so grateful to have your continued support and help spreading passion for our beautiful natural places. I have heard multiple times from staff on calls in the last month how much “we could not do what we do without volunteers,” and in many cases that refers to Friends groups. So, a heartfelt thank you to you.

Leadership Changes

Many of you may have heard that our State Parks & Trails Director, Erika Rivers, has taken a new position as Executive Director of Wilderness Inquiry, an organization known for advancing equity in the outdoors. Her last day at the DNR was Monday, November 29. The permanent director position was recently posted competitively. In the meantime, our Northwest Regional Manager Ben Bergey will be the Acting Director until the permanent position is filled. Ben recently served as the Wisconsin State Parks & Trails Director and has vast and valuable experience working with Friends groups in Wisconsin, we are lucky to have his expertise at the helm!

New Year, New Goals

As many of you remember from the 2019 Friends Group Workshops, we reiterated the importance of writing down annual goals identified by both your Friends group and local DNR staff. This exercise helps clarify priorities, organize time and resources, and improve communication. The new year is a great time to revisit this task and look ahead to a more optimistic and active year, we hope. It may be hard to envision what 2022 looks like right now, but it will be helpful and inspiring to get those annual goal and project plans completed early. I have offered to help local staff with this effort, so please contact me if you want assistance getting a meeting on the calendar. Contact myself or Ashley Petel for a copy of the annual goal and project plan template. We also will be encouraging everyone to get up-to-date on their partnership agreements with us.

COVID Updates

We know working with the DNR since the onset of the pandemic in 2020 has been trying. We have heard and understand your frustrations – be it reduction in volunteering opportunities or halting of events and activities – none of us enjoy the difficult changes COVID has brought. However, we are not out of the woods yet, and our priority as a state agency is to offer safe outdoor opportunities for Minnesotans. Currently, we anticipate that DNR volunteers actively working on-site in the future will be asked to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination, similar to state employees. More details on this will be shared when available. For more on the state’s COVID-19 directives, refer to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Finally, please enjoy a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season filled with time outdoors! We launched a new campaign on social media called #101daysoutdoors, which seeks to inspire everyone to get outside every single day until spring to help beat the winter blues and enjoy the snowy season.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 651-259-5609 or Arielle.courtney@state.mn.us.

Thanks and be well,

Arielle Courtney

DNR Parks & Trails Partnership Development Consultant

About Ashley Pethan