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More state park use, permit sales rise

Lake Carlos State Park, just north of Carlos, had a slight decrease in year-round permit sales last year, but participation in the park’s interpretive programs increased 15 percent over 2012. (Amy Chaffins/Echo Press)1 / 2
The Minnesota state parks year-round vehicle permit is $25 and provides unlimited access to all 76 state parks and recreation areas for a year. The 2014 Minnesota State Park permit features Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, near Riverton, where a 25-mile single-track mountain bike trail system opened in 2011. (MN DNR)2 / 2

If 2013 sales of Minnesota state park permits is any indication, more people are connecting with the outdoors.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported that year-round permit sales last year were up 2 percent from 2012 and 21 percent from 2008 statewide.

“We got off to a slow start last year due to the cold, wet spring, so it was gratifying to finish 2013 ahead of 2012,” said Cortland Nelson, director of the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division. “We’re obviously pleased to see evidence of increasing interest in Minnesota’s 76 state park and recreation areas. This news comes at a time when national parks and many other states are reporting significant declines in their visits and overnight stays.”


Despite a slight drop in year-round permit sales at Lake Carlos State Park last year, Park Manager Elizabeth Murray said there were increases in other areas.

“We did have an increase in daily [park permit sales] and I think some of that is attributed to some of our winter events like the candlelight ski. Last year we had over 600 participants in February; the weather was perfect,” she said.

Plus, she said more people took part in the park’s interpretive programs, which were up 15 percent over 2012.

“I think that is attributed to having a year-round naturalist in the park.” Murray said.

Some of the most popular programs last year were geared toward, children, including Fish Frenzy Fridays and preschool nature stories and activities, in particular.

Overnight visitors to Lake Carlos State Park dropped slightly in 2013.

“I think it was the late spring, which also put us back to a late summer,” she added.

Plus, a late ice-off and storms also had an impact, she said.


Now, during the slower late-winter months, park staff is getting ready for spring by interviewing for summer staff, lining up summer programs, planning the budget and other administrative tasks.

However, there’s still plenty to do at the local state park.

Lake Carlos State Park offers heated camper cabins, cross country ski trails, free use of ice fishing kits and snowshoe rentals.

Plus, there’s always an opportunity to get outside and look around. Park staff mentioned that there are birds moving around the park. Eagles and swans have recently been spotted in the park.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

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