Asking about parks access: state council wants input

Camping, hiking and enjoying the beauty of Minnesota’s state parks is an experience everyone should enjoy. Anyone wishing to discuss […]

Camping, hiking and enjoying the beauty of Minnesota’s state parks is an experience everyone should enjoy. Anyone
wishing to discuss accessibility in state parks while attending the 2018 Minnesota State Fair is urged to visit the Education Building, and find the Minnesota Council on Disability booth.

There, fair visitors can weigh in on the council’s Outdoors for All initiative. Kody Olson, public policy director for the council, said it’s important to hear from people with disabilities about state parks access. This builds on efforts during the 2018 legislative session, when the council was able to get $500,000 in the bonding bill. Those funds will be used to design at all-inclusive experience at two or three state parks for everyone, with a goal of having state parks that meet the diverse needs of all Minnesotans.

“The Minnesota Council on Disability has been leading the charge to make all 75 of Minnesota’s state parks accessible,” said Olson. “At the state fair, we will be launching a campaign that will spread our message to the thousands of visitors who visit our booth every year. We want to encourage folks to let their government know that this is an issue they care about. We want legislators to know that barriers exist in our parks and appropriations are needed to make our parks an inclusive experience for all.”

The council’s continued bonding efforts in 2019 and beyond will first focus on two parks, William O’Brien State Park in Marine in St. Croix and Fort Snelling State Park at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. Olson said the two were chosen because they are popular destinations with a high volume of visitors. The DNR estimates that more than 950,000 people visit Fort Snelling State Park in 2012, making it the most-visited state park. Statewide in 2012, the parks hosted almost 8 million visitors.

“Many people will understand the challenges as we talk about them because they have these two parks as a point of reference,” Olson said. “Our goal is to make all parks accessible. This is simply a starting point.”

Barriers to access include paths of travel,