Parks and trails across the state, including the Twin Cities, will remain open for people to find a source of tranquillity, even as organized activities have been canceled and facilities closed to hamper the spread of the pandemic.
Late Monday afternoon, the Department of Natural Resources canceled some public meetings and regular naturalist programs, and changed its operations for its state parks and recreation areas across Minnesota.
However, state parks, campgrounds and other natural places will remain open, DNR spokesman Chris Niskanen said in a news release. Still, expect some changes upon visiting because of safety measures related to the coronavirus.
The DNR’s action followed similar changes at regional and city parks. Three Rivers Park District canceled its outdoor programs Monday through March 31. St. Paul Parks and Recreation closed all recreation and community centers, athletic facilities, Great River Water Park, and Como Park Zoo and Conservatory through March 27.
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board on Sunday also announced it was closing its 47 recreation centers and suspending all programming starting Tuesday through April 5. Ice arenas, the Carl W. Kroening Interpretive Center and the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden visitor shelter would also be closed.
Student field trips, after-school activities, programming for seniors and upcoming Easter egg hunts were all canceled as parks leadership determines what other precautions it may need to take over the coming weeks, spokeswoman Dawn Sommers said. Any fees that were already paid by park users would be refunded or held in account balances.
Parks and trails, however, will stay open. Park Board Superintendent Al Bangoura encouraged people to go out while maintaining distance between each other, something he said is already common outdoors.
“These are open spaces in the heart of our city,” Bangoura said. “For people to get out there in these spaces and experience that peace, being out in nature, resetting, de-stressing, is important.”
He took part in it himself over the weekend, walking from the Wirth Home along the Lyndale Farmstead and to Lake Harriet.
“I saw people everywhere, walking around, smiling, saying hello,” he said. “There is a natural distancing that happens when you’re out there anyway.”
There is no indication that parks and trails would be closed in the near future as a result of coronavirus precautions, he said. “That would be another level,” he said.
While access remains to state parks and recreation areas, their entry points will be closed, owing to health guidelines on safe social distancing. Park visitors should use self-pay and informational kiosks. The DNR also said visitors can continue to buy daily and annual park passes through the agency’s online portal.
Three Rivers Park District’s parks, reserves and trails cover more than 27,000 acres in the metro, and remain open, too, even while organized programs go dark. The district said it will close all buildings, from nature centers to program centers, beginning Wednesday through April 5.
A district statement Monday afternoon said the move aligns with the Minnesota Department of Health’s emphasis on social distancing to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“Our parks are still open,” the district said in its news release. “We encourage people to come out and enjoy nature; going for a hike or a bike ride are great ways to get fresh air while also practicing social distancing.”