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Staycation benefits? State park visits, permit sales up

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Visits to Minnesota's state parks are on the rise and residents who vacation closer to home might be one reason why.

As the Associated Press reports, the Department of Natural Resources says sales of year-round park permits were up two percent last year and have climbed 21 percent in five years. Sales of single-day passes were also up in 2013 and have increased 15 percent since 2008.

In announcing the new numbers, the director of the DNR's Parks and Trails Division theorized that "staycations" have played a role in the increase. Courtland Nelson says the DNR has also tried to offer more programs and events during off-peak seasons.

Nelson says strong traffic later in the year helped compensate for a cold, wet spring that put a damper on park visits during the first half of 2013. He adds that the national parks and many states have reported declines in visitors.

Minnesota is not alone in seeing an increase, though. Montana and North Carolina both reported all-time highs in visitors.

Separately, the DNR announced that the 2014 park permit will feature a photo of a mountain bike trail at Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area that opened in 2011.

The Brainerd Dispatch reports photographer Aaron Hautala is president of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew. Of the view from the top of Miner's Mountain, Hautala says: “It’s a former mining site, and it’s visually breathtaking. It’s one of my favorite places to ride.”

The DNR put together a video promoting the mountain biking at Cuyuna Country soon after the 25-mile trail opened.

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