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Guest Column: Check out state park passes now at library

How many of Minnesota’s 75 state parks and recreation areas have you been to? Did you know we have a state park located in Albert Lea? This year, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has partnered with public libraries around the state to offer park passes for checkout. We are excited to announce that the Albert Lea Public Library is one of 71 public libraries across the state that will be offering state park passes for checkout from June 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022.

Annice Sevett

Funded by the DNR’s Parks and Trails Legacy Amendment dollars, the Minnesota state parks library program aims to eliminate the financial barrier of entry to Minnesotans living in lower-income communities. Regular visitors to state parks pay an entry fee ($7/day or $35/annual pass), which helps fund the parks. With this program, more individuals and families will be able to explore state parks and participate in everything they offer.

While the city of Albert Lea has 41 parks and recreation areas that span over 300 acres of parks, recreation areas and open space, state parks and recreation areas offer unique opportunities for exploration. Many state parks offer campgrounds, hiking trails, nature programs, fishing opportunities without having to obtain a license, and other recreational activities. Myre-Big Island State Park, located in our backyard, has 16 miles of hiking trails, snowshoeing opportunities anywhere in the park in the winter, shoreline fishing and more. Within about an hour’s drive of Albert Lea are five more state parks, providing endless recreational opportunities.

The Albert Lea Public Library has two state park passes available and anyone with an Albert Lea Public Library card is eligible to check one out. Once checked out, passes expire after seven days. During the seven days, you can visit as many state parks and recreation areas as you want, or you can visit the same one multiple times. Patrons are allowed to get on a waiting list for passes but are not able to request a pass for specific dates. After your pass expires, there is a survey to complete and responses will be used by the DNR to evaluate whether to continue this program in the future.

If you live in Freeborn County and don’t have a library card but would like to check out a pass, stop by the library to register for one. Not only will a library card enable you to take advantage of this program, it provides access to the physical and digital materials we offer for checkout.

Whether you explore the state parks in our backyard or travel farther to see the varied landscape of our state, we hope residents will take advantage of this program. Spending time and participating in recreational activities has health and social benefits, and the Albert Lea Public Library is excited to have state park passes available for check out by residents of Freeborn County.

Annice Sevett is the assistant library director of the Albert Lea Public Library.