Understanding visitation to Minnesota’s parks and trails is essential for planning, programming, and investment decisions. Visitation estimates generally rely on methods such as intercept surveys, in-field visitation counts, and automated trail counters. Visitation estimates using passively-generated data sources may offer opportunities to complement existing strategies.
This project used aggregated and anonymized location-based services (LBS) data to estimate and evaluate visitation to Minnesota parks and trails. LBS data gives information about when and where people travel. This approach provides unprecedented detail about how visitors use parks and trails and broadly describes who those visitors are. Visitation and use patterns can be analyzed at annual, monthly, weekly, and hourly time intervals. This data makes it possible to understand how people travel to parks and trails and where they are coming from. This data is intended to supplement, but not replace existing data used for decision making.
In addition to the full report published previously, this project has been enhanced by an interactive webpage. The webpage simplifies the reading of the report by breaking it into sections for an overview, parks, trails, frequently asked questions, etc. Each section also includes interactive pieces to all the viewer to look at results for individual parks and trails or to view the information for just the MN Department of Natural Resources parks and trails, the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails, and the Twin Cities Metro parks and trails.
This project was created by a collaboration of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission, and ten metropolitan regional park implementing agencies. This project used funds from the State of Minnesota Parks and Trail Legacy Fund.
Minnesota Parks and Trails Usage Report Website
The new guidebook for mountain bike trail creation, Mountain Bike Trail Development: Guidelines for Successfully Managing the Process are the world’s most comprehensive mountain bike trail resource. Four years in the making, the guidelines are made possible by Clean Water, Land and Legacy amendment funding. While the GMRPTC conceived of and spearheaded the project, other agencies recognized the importance of the guidelines and assisted with content development and review. We are pleased to partner with IMBA (the International Mountain Bicycling Association) and Rock Solid Trail Contracting, along with author Jake Carsten to bring this guide to fruition.
Access the Guidelines via a free online Flipbook.
Download a PDF file of the guidebook (116MB).
Get additional information regarding the Guidelines.
Club Mesabi is the "Friends" organization of the Mesabi Trail, a paved bicycle trail stretching from Grand Rapids to Ely. The Trail is owned and managed by the St Louis and Lake Counties Regional Rail Authority (RRA). Club Mesabi is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, separate & autonomous from the RRA with its own Board of Directors. Club Mesabi is under contract with the RRA to fulfill our stated mission – "To promote and support the Mesabi Trail and educate and advocate for use of the Trail as part of a healthy lifestyle". Club Mesabi hosts an annual bicycle tour on the Mesabi Trail.
Go to https://mesabitrail.com/club-mesabi-executive-director/ for more information and to apply. Applications are due on March 31, 2023.
The Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission (GMRPTC) has released its 2022 Policy and Planning Report. The report, due to the Legislative Legacy Committees by January 15 each year, includes a review of the Legacy grant recommendations for the Fiscal Year 2024 funding cycle, the criteria and selection process used, an overview of Greater Minnesota's regional system development, and milestone achievements for the calendar year.
The Commission received 17 eligible funding applications and recommend $11,398,765 in awards to 14 applicants.
The year was very productive including (3) three additional mountain bike trail system usage surveys, (7) seven campground visitor satisfaction and occupancy surveys, the completion of the Mountain Bike Trail Development Guidelines, (7) seven new designated facilities, and a special grant cycle for track wheel chairs.
The full report is available for download here.
The Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission (GMRPTC), in conjunction with the Southwest Regional Development Commission (SRDC) has released campground use studies for (7) seven regionally significant parks in southern Minnesota.
The studies are part of an ongoing effort of the GMRPTC to make the best decisions based on the best recreational data. As outdoor recreation continues to grow, the importance of having the most current information regarding the recreational desires of the people becomes critical.
In the reports, you will find detailed information regarding camper recreational experiences, characteristics, demographics, and their economic impact.
We would like thank our partners at the SRDC, especially the report authors Rosemary Bruce-White and Jessica Welu; as well as Justin Schroyer.
If you have questions or comments, please contact us:
Renee Mattson – Executive Director Joe Czapiewski – System Plan Coordinator
Garvin Park Report
Hole in the Mountain Park Report
Lake Washington Park Report
Memorial Park Report
Plum Creek Park Report
Ramsey Park Report
Twin Lakes Park Report
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announces grant funding opportunities for park and trail projects across Minnesota. Applications are now being accepted for the following grant programs: outdoor recreation, natural and scenic area, regional trail, local trail connections and federal recreational trails.
These grants help local governments throughout the state create partnerships with the DNR to fund projects ranging from local parks, regional trails to trail connections. Eligibility requirements, deadlines, contact information and other details can be found on the DNR Web site at mndnr.gov or on the following program links:
Outdoor Recreation Grant Program
Natural and Scenic Area Program
Federal Recreational Trail Program
Regional Trail Grant Program
Local Trail Connections Grant Program
The Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission coordinated a survey of three mountain bike systems in Greater Minnesota during the summer of 2022. The Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota was hired to conduct a visitor intercept survey and trail user counts at the Lake County Split Rock Wilds, Winona Bluffs Traverse, and Tioga Recreation Area mountain bike areas.
These three systems were chosen for their distinctly different terrain, geographic location within the Greater Minnesota System and the diversity of visitor profiles to their area.
The information gathered in the research will help inform planning and marketing efforts by the GMRPTC and our collaborative partners. Additionally, the information provides guidance for future trail expansions and development of new systems.
In this report you will find detailed information about the user counts and the visitor profiles for each system. The report begins with a trail count summary that provides a starting point to understand the unique differences and the similarities of the average daily traffic.
We’d like to thank our friends at the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota, Andrew Oftedal, Research and Policy Manager, who led the effort, compiled the data, wrote the reports and spent time at each of the locations to ensure the counts and surveys were of the highest accuracy and Executive Director Brett Feldman, who filled many survey shifts and found grant funding to keep the project on budget. It was a pleasure working with them!
If you have questions or comments, please contact us:
Renee Mattson – Executive Director Joe Czapiewski – System Plan Coordinator
2022 Mountain Biking Count Summary
Lake County Split Rock Wilds Topline Report
Lake County Split Rock Wilds Visitor Profile 2022
Winona Bluffs Traverse Topline Report
Winona Bluffs Traverse Visitor Profile 2022
Tioga Recreation Topline Report
Tioga Recreation Visitor Profile 2022
above photo Lake County Split Rock Wilds, top photo Winona Bluffs Traverse
Legacy Fund grants to enhance 14 regional parks and trails in Greater Minnesota
Minnesotans from the Northwest Angle to Olmsted County and many places in between will soon benefit from nearly $11.4 million in enhancements to 14 regional parks and trails.
Each year, the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission (GMRPTC) reviews applications for upgrades to designated parks and trails across the state, then forwards its recommendation to the Minnesota Legislature for approval through the Parks and Trails Legacy Fund. The Legislature has annually approved GMRPTC requests, since Legacy Funds are part of the 2008 Minnesota Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment and may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.
“We were impressed with the many thoughtful and creative approaches we reviewed for broadening Minnesotans’ enjoyment of their beautiful parks and trails, which is why we’re recommending fully funding each of the 14 selected requests,” said GMRPTC Executive Director Renee Mattson.
Since its creation in 2014, the GMRPTC has awarded more than $72 million in grants to 109 projects in the state’s 74 designated parks and trails. Combined with $25.6 million in community matches to date, grants are used to fund infrastructure improvements, land acquisitions, new facilities, trail rehabilitation, connecting people with the outdoors and more.
The 14 parks and trails recommended for $11,398,765 in Fiscal Year 2024 funding are below. District numbers in the grid refer to these geographic areas of Minnesota: 1-Northeast; 2-Northwest; 3-West Central; 4-East Central; 5-Southwest; 6-Southeast.
Grant Recipient – Award Amount – District
Cook County Mountain Bike Trail System – $400,000
Duluth Waabizheshikana/Marten Trail – $1,493,434
Mesabi Trail – $750,000
Northerly Park-Northwest Angle – $70,000
Detroit Lakes Detroit Mountain Recreation Area – $1,325,941
Otter Tail County Phelps Mill County Park – $366,000
Benton County Great River Park Complex – $797,555
Isanti County Springvale County Park – $336,800
Stearns County Kraemer Lake-Wildwood County Park – $1,175,846
Stearns County Quarry Park & Nature Preserve – $170,250
Redwood County Plum Creek Park – $818,539
Sibley County Henderson Scenic Byway Regional Trail – $1,394,400
Austin Jay C. Hormel Nature Center – $250,000
Olmsted County Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo – $2,050,000
“Legacy Funding is a far-reaching gift that Minnesotans had the foresight to create to enhance their enjoyment of the outdoors,” said Mattson. “Without Legacy dollars, many of these projects simply would not happen or would take many years before coming to fruition.”
The GMRPTC provides recommendations to the Minnesota Legislature for grants to parks and trails of regional significance in the 80 counties outside the seven-county metropolitan area.
For additional information: Renee Mattson, Executive Director of the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission, at 218-310-2627 or email@example.com.
The Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission is looking to fill vacancies as well as to appoint or reappoint directors for open seats in each of the six districts. District 5 and District 6 currently have vacancies due to early resignations and by a move out of the district.
Anyone interested in serving on the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Council may apply on the Secretary of State website, Boards and Commissions link:
At the conclusion of the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission (GMRPTC) CPO Small Grant Fund application and awards for 2022 there remains a balance of $14,280 in the CPO fund.
The Commission has made the fund balance available for designated Greater Minnesota facilities to apply for a grant specifically for a track wheelchair.
A successful applicant must demonstrate the ability to store the chair in an enclosed facility, agree to perform maintenance on the chair as recommended by the manufacturer and make the chair available for loan to other designated facilities to test for a period of two years. (Not to exceed 45 days per year, transportation to and from the loaning facility is the responsibility of the testing facility)
A successful applicant must also agree the chair is made available for use at no cost to users.
This project is intended to serve as a prototype, thus the necessity of loaning the chair to other facilities.
Liability release waivers for use of the chair are the responsibility of the grantee.
The Commission has worked with Action Manufacturing/Midwest Trackchair to provide a discounted price for the chair, $14,780 + tax, making the purchase more affordable. The chair will come equipped with the most requested options; attendant control, attendant control relocation mount, cup holder and rod holder. Project costs beyond the available grant funds are the responsibility of the applicant and must be detailed in the application.
Applicants must complete the application and submit by December 9, 2022
receive blog posts
in your email.