MN state parks get new things to do this year, but it may cost a little more to visit

A baby bison and new campgrounds are some of the highlights.
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It may cost a little bit more to go to Minnesota state parks this year.

The state DNR, which runs the parks, is proposing a few fee increases for the first time in a decade to help with increasing costs (more on this below). But there will also be some new features. Here's a rundown.

New things for this year

There will be a bunch of new things for people to explore this year:

New camping spots: Two new campgrounds will open at the Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine and Whitewater state parks.

More paddling: You can paddle a new state water trail in southern Minnesota. The 20-mile Shell Rock River State Water Trail goes from Fountain Lake in Freeborn County through Myre-Big Island State Park on the way to the Iowa border.

More trails: The DNR has added 6 miles of trail to connect the Mill Towns State Trail.

A baby bison: A yearling bull has joined the Minnesota Bison Conservation Herd at the Minneopa State Park.

Syrup-making: You can learn how at the new sugar shack at Maplewood State Park.

For more on Minnesota's parks and trails, click here.

About those fee increases ...

Costs associated with running and maintaining the parks have gone up because they've been so popular in recent years. In fact, last year saw a record-setting 10 million visits – the most in the park system's 125-year history.

"This is excellent news, but it does create challenges to meeting the increased maintenance demands on our system," Erika Rivers, director of Minnesota state parks and trails, said in a statement. "The time has come for Minnesota to make some critical investments to support the outdoor recreation system we value so highly."

The DNR has done some things to try to cut costs, like shortening camping seasons and delaying needed repairs (some bathrooms at Jay Cooke State Park are closed to the public because of needed fixes). But now officials say it's time to increase funding.

Gov. Mark Dayton's budget proposal includes increasing what money goes into the DNR's General Fund (that money, along with money from park fees, pay for operations and maintenance). It also includes some "modest but much-needed fee increases," the release says. This budget will be considered by the Legislature in the coming weeks.

(Note: the funding for these maintenance needs comes from a completely different place than the funding for the new things to do described above.)

You can read more about all of this here. And here are the proposed fee increases:

  • Vehicle permits at state parks will go up by $1, so it'll be $6 a day, while the annual permit will be $5 more – going from $25 to $30 a year.
  • Registration fees for ATVs will go up by $5 to $20 a year, while snowmobile fees will go up by $10 to $35 a year.
  • Boat registration fees will go up by $1-$15 a year, depending on the size of the boat (see more on this here).
  • Cross-country ski passes will also go up by $2 to $7 for a day pass, while annual passes will go up by $5 to $24 a year.

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