Editorial Roundup: More people value state parks
Published 8:14 pm Tuesday, September 4, 2018
The small herd of bison don’t know it, but they’re superstars.
For most of its life, Minneopa State Park was widely unknown to anyone outside the Mankato area. Even many in the region only knew about the stunning waterfalls at the park but never ventured into separate, much larger part of the park north of Highway 68.
That all changed a few years ago when the Department of Natural Resources, in cooperation with the Minnesota Zoo, added a herd of bison to the north-side range of prairie.
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Since then the park has seen visitor numbers increase by 66 percent, to 280,000 annually.
Those visitors have also been discovering the beautiful, shaded campground at the park, as well as trails and bluffs surrounding the waterfalls area.
The newfound interest has propelled Minneopa to one of the top 10 state parks in Minnesota. And Flandrau State Park in New Ulm, with its sand-bottom pool, riverside setting and impressive trail system, has also made the top 10 list this year.
In fact, the DNR reports that all parks are seeing more visitors, with attendance up 25 percent over the past 15 years. Minnesotans love their parks and the outdoors and they’ve shown a willingness to support them financially. The Legacy Amendment approved by voters in 2008 collects a percent tax that has paid for $2 billion dollars in projects that include millions in state park improvements.
Funding has also gone to the I Can! program that introduces people to camping, paddling and fishing.
Having more Minnesotans outdoors, whether it’s in a park, on a river or lake, or in the woods is the best way to raise awareness about the need to protect the valuable natural resources we have.
While it’s good to see more people at the parks, it also brings more wear-and-tear and the need for more staff and maintenance. Going forward, the Legislature needs to assure that funding keeps up.
At a time when more people report higher stress and have more of their lives consumed with activities, electronics and noise, it’s no wonder a drive through a bison range, sitting next to a dramatic waterfall or a hike on a trail is so precious.
— Mankato Free Press, Sept. 3