It’s June 21 – the official first day of summer.
Though, with the recent jump in temperature and almost constant thunderstorms rolling through, it’s safe to say we’ve been feeling the effects of the season for a while. And, with summer comes the massive influx of people visiting Minnesota State Parks, whether just for a day of activities or for a few nights or more of camping.
The State Park system in Minnesota is vast and varied. The MN Department of Natural Resources (DNR) webpage on state parks sums it up: The DNR’s Division of Parks and Trails system includes 66 state parks and 9 recreation areas, 9 waysides, 25 state trails (over 1,300 miles), 35 water trails (over 4,500 miles) and 62 state forest campgrounds and day-use areas.
There’s a new tool available to help navigate it all: The Minnesota Great Outdoors website. It is very intuitive and user-friendly. Filters narrow down what you are looking for to make your search that much easier: location, accessibility, camping amenities, lodging, interpretive programming, rental equipment availability, and landscape features.
Minnesota IT Services Commissioner Johanna Clyborne had this to say about the new site and its features, “Consolidating geospatial information that exists in dozens or hundreds of places into a single website makes it easier for Minnesotans to find the outdoor options that might be just beyond their back door, or near a favorite destination. This is our mission: to work in partnership with agencies, sharing expertise and data that provides full, rich experiences for Minnesotans.”
Users accessing the Minnesota Great Outdoors site can:
- Search for parks and trails by name
- Pan and zoom across a map of Minnesota to find parks and trails
- Drop a pin on a specific location to compare parks and trails without losing track of what you’ve seen
- Use search filters to come up with a list of parks and trails with specific amenities
Tom Landwehr, Minnesota DNR Commissioner highlighted the main benefits of the site, saying, “Previously, you would have to know which office or region managed the park or trail you were looking for. Now, you have a clear, easy-to-navigate launchpad to find all of the information you need to plan your trip. By bridging technology with Minnesota’s beautiful parks and trails, we aim to make it even easier for people to connect with the bountiful outdoor opportunities available in our state.”
This new site is completely focused on Minnesota State parks, so it unfortunately does not include information about national or city parks and trails. However, it does provide in-depth information about state and regional parks that is helpful to Minnesotans and visitors in all corners of the state, during any and all times of the year. The filters on the website’s search function can even break out trails by use, indicating trails that are best for hiking, off-highway vehicles, snowmobiles, and bicycles. Currently the Minnesota Great Outdoors site includes more than 184 parks and 419 trails.
“This new site will help connect even the most casual parks and trails visitors with the great outdoor recreational opportunities available in greater Minnesota,” said Renee Mattson, Executive Director of Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission. “It’s the perfect ‘first-stop’ for information when planning out a trip to a new area or region.”
Coupled with the new website is also the new mobile-friendly site which was made possible by the Minnesota Legacy Parks and Trails Fund. The mobile app also shows all state and regional parks and trails that are eligible to receive Legacy funding.
While the online map is now fully public, work continues to add additional information about Minnesota’s state and regional parks and trails, particularly related to recreational activities and the locations of these opportunities.
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