Last year the Minnesota Legislature voted to approve a total of four free admittance days to state parks starting in 2020, up from two free days each year. This winter’s relatively mild weather offers a perfect opportunity for bundling up in layers, filling the thermos with cocoa, and finding something new. To locate your nearest state park, go to mndnr.gov/parks.
“This additional free day gives families a great opportunity to see what their state parks offer,” said Erika Rivers, director of Parks and Trails with the Department of Natural Resources. “Naturalist programs, ski and snowshoe rentals, guided hikes, groomed trails and beautiful scenery – all of these are only a short drive away.” A list of state parks that includes February 15 programs can be found at mndnr.gov/ptcalendar.
Nearly all naturalist-led programs are free, and appeal to adults and children. You can learn a new skill like showshoeing, or take a lovely candlelight walk on a winter evening. Learn how to count birds during an annual bird count, or just show up so the kids can burn off energy on a mile-long hike. Sometimes the simplest of activities – putting one foot in front of the other – leads to the greatest satisfaction.
In short, time spent outdoors brings huge benefits to children and adults. If you don’t think that’s true, just watch a group of children play in the snow; and note their behavior later as they return home. The great outdoors gives a natural lift to all who seek it. For a list of park activities on February 15, go to mndnr.gov/parkevents.
Finally, consider the simplicity of a drive to a park. No special equipment is needed to walk a trail. You don’t need hiking lessons. You don’t need special clothing or gear or technology. All you need is the desire to see something new in a tranquil and beautiful place. And on February 15, it’s free for the taking.
For general information on Minnesota State Parks and Trails, go to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 888-646-6367 (8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. M-F, 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Sat.).
Photos courtesy of the Minnesota DNR – A candlelight walk on the Gateway State Trail and a family showshoeing in Gooseberry Falls State Park.