DNR Update: What’s going on with the MOU?

An update from Arielle Courtney, DNR

Greetings, friends! Thank you as always for your dedication and service to our state parks and trails. While this winter has been abnormal, I know many of you worked hard with our staff to put on a variety of great events. It’s been a few months since I provided an update and wanted to share a bit more information about the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) template we’ve been working on along with some other efforts in the meantime. 

What is happening? 

As a refresher, the DNR is planning to implement a “template MOU” for all the Friends groups in the future. This is our first step to create a more organized statewide model for working with Friends groups.  

Other steps in the process also include: 

  • Aggregating annual work and project plans for each Friends partnership. 
  • Increase visibility of Friends partnerships on the DNR website and other avenues. 
  • Provide better training and guidance for DNR staff on their role in working with Friends groups. 
  • Develop an internal policy for DNR staff that guides their work with Friends groups. 
  • Provide better communication and support to Friends groups in general. 
  • Improve coordination with Parks & Trails Council of MN. 

Why the MOU? 

  • Defines the partnership clearly, describing each party’s role and expectations for each other. 
  • This helps set future DNR staff and Friends leaders up for success by documenting how we work together and what our commitments to each other will be. 
  • Offers a set of best practices for DNR and Friends groups in Minnesota that are consistent across the state. 
  • Increases equitability in DNR’s approach to partnerships and offers more predictability for Friends groups. 
  • Holds DNR accountable to being a good partner by meeting needs and interests of Friends groups that are mutually beneficial. 
  • Allows DNR to present in one place the policies and procedures required by law that partners need to comply with for various activities, to avoid delays or confusion late in a project. 

 What does this mean for Friends groups? 

Many activities, such as volunteering for DNR activities and permitted special events can still occur without an MOU. However, the benefits of having an MOU allow the group to be a formally recognized partner, cooperate with DNR on large scale fundraising or capital improvement projects, be eligible for potential future partner benefits (e.g., grants), and receive DNR communication and promotional support. This agreement should also provide increased effectiveness and efficiency in partnership once signed. Many other states use this model with their Friends groups, such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and others. 

When will these changes happen? 

From December 2023 through March 2024, we held nine feedback sessions with Friends groups across the state and with Parks & Trails Council of MN. We are now in the process of incorporating that feedback. 


  • Spring 2024: Internal DNR approval of the updated MOU, with Parks & Trails Council feedback 
  • Summer 2024: Development of training and communication materials  
  • Fall 2024: Roll-out of DNR staff training and communication of MOU updates with Friends groups 
  • Winter 2024-2025: Adoption of new model, including MOU and annual goal and project plans 

We received a wide variety of feedback on the MOU and will be doing our best to present a final document that is supported by as many groups as possible. Stay tuned! 

 Upcoming Free Park Days 

Many Friends groups organize or help with Earth Day events, and this year we will be again having Free Park Day on Saturday, April 27. The next Free Park Day will be on National Get Outdoors Day on Saturday, June 8. Thanks to everyone who lends a hand on these busy days in our state parks!  


Thanks and be well, 

Arielle Courtney 



DNR Parks & Trails Partnership Development Consultant 

Photo credit: Mark Lingl/P&TC Photo Contest

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author who represents the Minnesota DNR and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota.