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Diversity increasing among Minnesota state park visitors, DNR study finds

Aug 15, 2023

 A Minnesota Department of Natural Resources study found increasing diversity among visitors to state parks. The study also looked at the impacts of state parks on local economies.


MINNEAPOLIS -- A newly-released study from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources found increasing diversity among visitors to state parks. The study also looked at the impacts of state parks on local economies.

According to the DNR, the study engaged more than 2,000 park visitors during the 2022 summer season. The study included a visitor survey, an economic impact assessment, and focus groups.

The study found an increasing percentage of people of color visiting state parks, from 5% of visitors in 2017 to 11% in 2022.

Still, compared to the Minnesota population, state park visitors are more likely to be white, have a higher income, and be highly educated.

"The visitor study shows that Minnesota DNR is making progress toward our goal of inclusivity, though there's still more work to do," Ann Pierce, director of the Minnesota DNR's Parks and Trails Division, said. "We will continue our efforts to expand access to public lands for traditionally underserved communities and to welcome new visitors to outdoor recreation in state parks."

To increase visitor diversity, the DNR says it has implemented strategies like inclusive marketing, skill-building programming, a state parks library pass program, and investments in adaptive equipment.

The study also found that spending by state park visitors generates over $688 million per year in economic activity around parks across the state. Out-of-state visitors contribute an estimated $147 million to the state economy during their trips to Minnesota state parks.

"State parks are economic engines for Minnesota communities with each visitor spending an average of $67 per person per day," Randolph Briley, director of the Outdoor Recreation Industry Partnership, said. "This is spending that goes directly to community businesses, increasing revenue and supporting local jobs."