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Entry to Minnesota's state parks could rise by $1 as part of funding boost

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The cost of entry to Minnesota's state parks is set to go up by a dollar in July, as part of an increased funding package proposal from Gov. Mark Dayton.

Funding for state parks would be increased by $4.6 million for the 2016 fiscal year, rising to $4.9 million in 2017, according to a Minnesota Department of a Natural Resources press release, which will come from a combination of extra state funding and increased vehicle permits.

Under the proposals, the cost of an annual vehicle pass to state parks would rise from $25 to $30, while one-day permits would increase from $5 to $6.

The DNR release says that the increased permit costs will allow it to continue maintaining the parks at current levels, following a period of years in which the state park system has expanded and visitor numbers exploded.

Parks and Trails chief Erika Rivers told the Associated Press the reception from lawmakers and visitors to the proposed funding increase has been positive, with "little to no opposition."

The DNR says there were 8.8 million visitors to Minnesota's 66 state parks in 2014, with permit sales increasing by 24 percent and campground bookings by 11 percent since 2008.

The hike in permit prices is expected to generate $2.3 million over the next two years.

The Pioneer Press reported this week on the top 10 most popular state parks in Minnesota last year, with Fort Snelling State Park getting the most visitors through the gates, with just under 800,000.

This was followed by Gooseberry Falls, on the North Shore northeast of Duluth, and Itasca State Park near Bemidji – home of the Mississippi Headwaters.

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