On the hunt for the nearest park offering canoe rentals? Searching for a spot with Wi-Fi and a waterfall? Wondering where you might find an accessible yurt?
Minnesotans have a new tool to sort through outdoor destinations, as state officials debuted a website Tuesday that serves as a one-stop shop for amenities at hundreds of regional and state parks and trails.
For Alicia Vin Zant, a St. Paul bicycle shop owner and mother of nine, searching for a park that will accommodate what her children want to do can consume valuable free time. The search tool will simplify her family’s quest for new outdoor destinations, she said at Tuesday’s kickoff for the website.
Tom Ryan, chairman of the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission, said the website may bring more people to overlooked parks in greater Minnesota — “particularly the counties and the towns that may not have the resources to project who they are, what they have to offer all of our citizens of Minnesota related to outdoor recreation.”
Parkgoers previously could search only for state park amenities, not regional park options, on the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website.
Gayle Gruenewald of Minneapolis, who was biking through Fort Snelling State Park on Tuesday, said she was a regular visitor to state parks but has had trouble navigating the website in the past. She often relies on a pile of pamphlets she keeps in her car to figure out whether a park has beaches or bike trails.
The new search tool “would free up the glove compartment,” she said.
The idea of creating a single place to search state and regional parks has been discussed ever since Minnesotans passed the Legacy Amendment in 2008, said Erika Rivers, director of parks and trails for the DNR.
Minnesota Information Technology Services developed the website over the past two years, a process that cost $236,361 and was funded though the Legacy Amendment, which dedicates state sales tax dollars to parks and trails, among other purposes.
National parks and most city parks are not included in the search tool because they are not eligible for Legacy funding, Ryan said.