The following article summarizes the original event which is listed below the summary.

Minnesota's state parks and trails offer outdoor activities for all

Tue, May 17 2022, 11am

Our May 2022 workshop was an engaging presentation on Minnesota’s wonderful system of state parks and trails by Arielle Courtney, partnership development consultant for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. She began with a summary of the health benefits of getting outdoors, especially in natural areas, and why “two hours outdoors is the new 10,000 steps.”

Courtney then talked about the many ways the state of Minnesota can help us get our “dose” of outdoors. Minnesota has 75 state parks and recreation areas, 25 state trails, and 35 river trails spread across the state’s hardwood forests, pine forests, and plains. These places offer an abundance of ways to experience them, such as hiking, canoeing, fishing, camping, driving, and listening to interpretive programs. There are activities and facilities for all ages and abilities, including programs and hikes for little kids, trails, and even all-terrain motorized wheelchairs and off-road track chairs for the mobility impaired.

Active visitors can join the Minnesota State Parks and Trails Hiking Club. There are 68 designated hiking trails in the parks, often showcasing the park’s most scenic features. In the middle of each trail is a secret word. As you accumulate words and mileage, you can earn patches and even free camping nights.  

Another club is the Passport Club, which doesn’t require hiking but just visiting a park and stamping a book. Accumulated visits then earn rewards similar to those of the Hiking Club.

I Can Fish!

Within the state parks you can fish without a license; you can check out free fishing gear, and, for a small fee, you can join the I Can Fish! program to learn how to fish. You can also join an I Can Camp! program and learn other outdoor skills like canoeing. 

Many parks also have kits that can be checked out for activities like birding, orienteering, and KiDS Activity Booklets.

Courtney highlighted a number of parks for particular activities:

For families and grandkids

For the less mobile

  • Wheelchair accessible camping and hiking at Lake Bemidji State Park
  • Traveling along the accessible Root River, Douglas, and Howard Munger trails.

For those seeking solitude

Besides visiting there are also several other ways one can be involved with Minnesota’s state parks and trails. You can become a campground host, where you stay at a campground for several weeks and monitor its activities. You can join a friends group for a particular park or trail and volunteer at the park or fundraise for it. And, at the U of M, you can enroll in the Minnesota Master Naturalist program to become a steward and interpreter of the parks and outdoors.

Minnesota’s state parks and trails are a wonderful resource, waiting for us to enjoy and nurture them.

—Ron Matross, UMRA president-elect and Program Committee chair

Event recording
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Portals to health and happiness: Minnesota state parks

Tue, May 17 2022, 11am
Arielle Courtney
Partnership development consultant
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Event to be held via Zoom.

Our May workshop will be about Minnesota’s crown jewels, our state parks. Minnesota is fortunate to be positioned where four major North American biomes converge: aspen parklands, prairie grasslands, and deciduous and coniferous forests. We are also blessed to have a system of 75 state parks and recreational areas covering this great diversity of landscape.

Arielle Courtney, partnership development consultant for the Parks and Trails Division of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), will talk to us about how we can engage with this wonderful resource and use it to help ourselves and our families become healthier and happier.

Please register for this Zoom webinar and join us at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, May 17.

Her presentation will describe ways that everyone, regardless of physical abilities, can get outside and enjoy the state’s parks and trails. Whether it is through a challenging adventure like mountain biking or backpacking, a relaxed picnic, or a stroll on an accessible paved trail, there is something for everyone in our parks.

The pandemic has given us all a greater sense of the importance of time outdoors for our physical and mental health; and our parks, near and not-so-near, offer us the chance to renew our bodies and spirits.

Courtney holds both BS and MS degrees from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in environmental policy and natural resources management. She joined the DNR in 2013 as a social science researcher and strategic planner. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband, two-year-old daughter, and rescue dog. They enjoy camping, hiking, paddling, and biking all around Minnesota, but especially in the Driftless Area and along the North Shore.

—Ron Matross, UMRA Program Committee chair

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