Big Bog SRA boardwalk
May 31, 2022
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DNR Update – Flooding, volunteer requirements update, and a thank you

An update from Arielle Courtney, DNR

Welcome to the start of summer! After what seemed like a record-long winter, we emerged immediately into spring (or well, summer) and with it brings some good news and some challenges. As many of you might have seen on social media or in the news, we are experiencing significant flooding events on the north shore and other parts of northern Minnesota. Please have patience and kindness with our staff as they triage flood and damage control. Because of this challenge, some campgrounds, trails, or other programs might be delayed or cancelled, and we ask for your understanding during this time.

But what I hope will be good news to most is that we are working hard to make volunteering easier! We heard from Parks & Trails Council and many Friends groups loud and clear that there are too many barriers to volunteering as a result of COVID (and certainly there were areas for improvement before that as well).

Here is what we’re doing to improve:

  • COVID-19 Requirements: The COVID-19 vaccination and testing policy that required volunteers and staff to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result is rescinded as of Tuesday, May 24, 2022. A daily health screening practice is still in place to make sure people who are sick or experiencing potential COVID-19 symptoms don’t show up to volunteer or work.
  • Background Checks: Now that the COVID requirements are rescinded, we can go back to operating under the policy that one-day events (in many cases, although it depends on the event) will not require background checks and folks can sign-up the same day to participate. Volunteers will still have to sign a DNR volunteer agreement, however.
  • Continuous Improvement: The DNR’s Volunteer Program is planning to conduct a “continuous improvement” project to identify additional areas where we can remove barriers to volunteering. This project has yet to launch, but the DNR’s Volunteer Program Director, Renée Hartwig, will be the project lead.
  • Online Volunteer Registration: We continue to work to simplify the online volunteer management website, Volunteer Impact, which will help streamline paperwork long-term for both volunteers and DNR staff.

Lastly, THANK YOU for your patience and understanding as we have tried to navigate the complexities of protecting public health and safety during the pandemic. You truly can’t please everyone, and if some of these changes have been frustrating to you, I understand. I hope that we are in for a much more relaxed summer this year and don’t hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns!

You can reach me by phone at 651-259-5609 or via e-mail at Arielle.courtney@state.mn.us.

Thanks and be well,

Arielle Courtney

DNR Parks & Trails Partnership Development Consultant