Regional parks in and around the Twin Cities are getting a lot of love.
The metropolitan parks and trails racked up more than more than 48 million visits last year — about 1.5 million more than in 2013. And since 2005, the number of visits to parks and trails has increased by more than 15 million, according to new estimates released by the Metropolitan Council.
For many people, parks and trails are the place to go to hike, bike, swim, fish, camp and just plain relax. Not surprisingly, the parks and trails get the most use during the summer, spring and fall. But even winter, which chalked up 9 percent of the visits, isn’t a deterrent for those who want to play, chill out or get a snowy workout on skis or snowshoes.
“We’re very pleased that park visitation continues to go up,” said Adam Duininck, chairman of the Metropolitan Council. “That is the direct result of local, regional and state investments and partnerships that have helped create our world-class and growing parks and trails system, from northern Anoka County to southeastern Dakota County. People in this region and all throughout the state love our regional parks and trails.”
The seven-county metro area has 54 regional parks and park reserves. But the tally of visits in the report by the Metropolitan Council covers 99 park, trail and recreation areas, including Como Zoo, Gale Woods Farm, Noerenberg Memorial Gardens and Square Lake.
More than half of all the visits were to regional parks and trails in Minneapolis and St. Paul, but the share of those visits has decreased over time, likely because of the addition of park and trail facilities and population growth outside the two cities, according to the report.
Carver County saw the biggest jump (103 percent) in the number of visitors last year, primarily because the Southwest Regional Trail opened in 2014. And Bloomington saw the most significant decline (a 5.6 percent drop) in visits to its parks and trails, according to the report.