DNR Update – a timeline for the planning process and clarifying DNR requirements

By Arielle Courtney DNR Parks & Trails Partnership Development Consultant

Happy new year to all of you! January has gone by fast, and I know many groups are getting back in the swing of helping with candlelight and other favorite and well-loved winter events. Many people rely on these cheerful outdoor opportunities to get them through what I would consider the most challenging phase of winter, and we could not do it without your support! Thank you.

In this newsletter, I will share some updates on where the DNR is at with addressing some confusing and important aspects of our Friends group relationships.

Planning Process Update

As I shared previously, we are working on a planning process to improve our work with you – Friends groups! We understand the DNR is not always the easiest organization to work with, and we want to make our relationship with you better.

Last summer and early fall, we had discussions with our DNR Parks & Trails Division leadership team and around 25 park and trail staff that work with Friends groups directly. We set the stage for discussion with our staff by explaining that the goals of this planning process are to:

  • Enhance partnership between all parties
  • Increase effectiveness of all parties in their missions to promote and protect state parks and trails
  • Clarify roles, legal requirements, opportunities, and volunteering needs

We talked with our leadership and staff about what we want from Friends groups as the DNR, what we think you might want from us, and most importantly what issues exist and how to we overcome them? We gathered a lot of good feedback that will help us as we begin reaching out to Friends groups and the Parks and Trails Council directly.

Next Steps:

The timeline for this is expected to be this spring, but exact dates are not set yet.

  • Meet with sample of Friends groups to hear feedback on working with the DNR
  • Share ideas brought forward by DNR staff with Friends group leaders and Parks & Trails Council for input

If you would like to get a meeting on the calendar (most likely virtual) to discuss, please give me a call at 651-259-5609 or email at Arielle.courtney@state.mn.us. We will also be reaching out to groups directly.

Special Events Clarity

In August, I shared a table on volunteer guidance in terms of background check and volunteer agreement requirements. This table focused on volunteering specifically but did not address events well enough. Many of you (including our own staff!) are often confused by the DNR’s special event requirements. We are working to put together clearer and more user-friendly direction on this and as soon as it is approved, I will share with you. Thank you for your continued support and patience.

In the meantime, while many of these things are in limbo, I encourage you to work directly with your DNR contact to answer questions about events or volunteer requirements. The best approach for groups that do not yet have an MOU with us is to complete an “annual Friends group volunteer agreement” and background check consent form that will cover your individual participation in DNR-organized volunteer activities throughout the year. Please let me know if you have questions on this.

Thanks and be well,

Arielle Courtney



DNR Parks & Trails Partnership Development Consultant

Photo credit: Friends of Wild River State Park