Our Values & History

Our mission is to acquire, protect and enhance critical land for the public's use and benefit.

Our Vision

We envision an interconnected system of parks, trails, waterways, natural areas and open spaces that provide all Minnesotans with outstanding outdoor recreational opportunities and that preserve the natural diversity of our state.

We value and promote

  • Openness and inclusivity in our organization, programs and advocacy
  • Sustainable, long-term statewide land stewardship and conservation
  • Outdoor recreation for all Minnesotans for its educational, health and community benefits
  • Collaboration and volunteerism
  • Service as an independent, honest and forthright voice for parks and trails
  • Decisions informed by the best available science and data

Founded in 1954

Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota was established in 1954 as one of the first of its kind in the nation—a statewide citizen advisory board for state parks. It all began, appropriately enough at Itasca, Minnesota’s first state park, where the state’s top parks advocates gathered to discuss the future of Minnesota state parks. In attendance were Minnesota State Parks director U.W. Hella and Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Clarence R. Magney.

Judge Magney (for whom Judge C.R. Magney State Park is named), served as the first chair of P&TC, then called the Minnesota Council of State Parks. At that time, membership was limited to 16 active members. In later years the membership limit was raised to 50, and eventually membership was opened to all people who wanted to assist this work through their membership support. Today that’s well over 3,000 people.

Today, we continue the important work of preserving land and creating opportunities for everyone to enjoy Minnesota’s outstanding natural heritage. With your help, we can continue to ensure these same opportunities are around for future generations!

Our Commitment to Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI)

silhouette of colorful handsParks & Trails Council’s work is rooted in a belief that sustainable land conservation provides invaluable benefits–recreational, health, social, economic, and ecological–for individuals and communities.

We are committed to fostering a culture of inclusion that uplifts diverse voices, perspectives, and styles, especially of those who experience more barriers based on their identities and backgrounds. We will continually examine our biases and welcome difficult truths as we strive to ensure our programs and policies contribute toward a more just society, where the benefits of parks and trails are equitably felt by everyone.

In February 2021, our board of directors adopted a JEDI Action Plan that lays the groundwork for our continual JEDI commitment. The long-term goals are to ensure that 1) JEDI values are seamlessly integrated into P&TC governance, operations, policies, planning and programs, and 2) P&TC is a respected nonprofit that works to ensure the benefits of parks and trails are equitably available to and enjoyed by all.

Download our JEDI Action Plan

Tell us your thoughts

As part of our work to foster a culture of inclusion, we invite your feedback and suggestions. Email us at info@parksandtrails.org.

Our Current Strategic Plan

Writings on P&TC's history

About Judge C.R. Magney – A story of dedication by Samuel H. Morgan

60 Years of Safeguarding Minnesota’s Natural Heritage by former Sen. Dave Durenberger

Quest for Excellence by U.W. Hella, former director of state parks

Recommended Readings

Timeline of Minnesota Parks

From the creation of Itasca in 1891 to the passing of the Legacy Amendment in 2008, Minnesota has a full history related to its parks and trails.

Explore the Timeline

Reuel Harmon Award

Our annual recognition of exemplary service and outstanding achievements on behalf of Minnesota’s parks and trails.

Hall of Honor