DNR prepares to invest $35 million in many parks access features statewide

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has plans to invest $35 million in Get Out MORE funds on wide-ranging […]

A field of wildflowers at Sibley State Park.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has plans to invest $35 million in Get Out MORE funds on wide-ranging access and accessibility improvements across the state. 

The projects will focus on road, trail and facility modernizations in state parks, state forests and wildlife management areas.

Two people fishing by the river
Many people enjoy fishing at state parks.

The DNR has identified more than 100 access and accessibility projects throughout the state as part of the once-in-a-generation Get Out MORE (Modernize Outdoor Recreation Experiences) investments approved by the Minnesota Legislature and signed by Gov. Tim Walz in 2023. The projects will serve new and existing users by making it easier to get to recreational opportunities, and easier for people to enjoy outdoor recreation.

The historic, one-time Get Out MORE investment of $149.9 million centers on five key areas: 

  • Enhancing fisheries and fishing infrastructure ($60 million) 
  • Enhancing access and welcoming new users to public lands and outdoor recreation facilities ($35.4 million) 
  • Modernizing boating access ($35 million) 
  • Restoring streams and modernizing water-related infrastructure to support outdoor recreation ($10 million) 
  • Modernizing camping and related infrastructure ($9.5 million) 

“Access and accessibility are vital to bringing new users to state parks, state forests and wildlife management areas to enjoy outdoor recreation and to improve the experiences of existing users,” DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen said. “These investments show Minnesota’s commitment to ensuring people of all abilities and interests enjoy a world-class recreation system.” 

The DNR manages 74 state parks and recreation areas, 60 state forests and more than 1,500 wildlife management areas that encompass nearly 5 million acres throughout the state. 

Of the $149.9 million in Get Out MORE investments, $35.4 million will go toward enhancing access and accessibility. This will include $15 million for accessibility improvements in state parks and wildlife management areas at specific facilities. 

Three comprehensive accessibility projects are planned at key state parks — William O’Brien, Sibley and Fort Snelling — and 11 smaller scale projects across the state. The comprehensive projects will involve improving accessibility of park amenities, bathrooms, and other facilities throughout the park, bringing greater accessibility park-wide. 

More than 70 projects will focus on access improvements at wildlife management areas statewide, including building new accessible trailheads and ensuring existing hunting blinds, overlooks and trails are fully accessible. 

Another $9.4 million is for road improvements. Road modernization will enhance more than 35 roads across Minnesota that provide access to recreational opportunities in state forests, wildlife management areas, state recreation areas, and state parks. 

Projects in this category include bridge replacements, road reconstruction, erosion control and resurfacing. Improvements will make it easier for more people to reach and enjoy outdoor recreation opportunities. 

Also, $8 million is earmarked for improvements to hiking and paved trails at state parks and hunter walking trails at wildlife management areas. 

Projects include improvements at more than a dozen state parks to improve accessibility and long-term sustainability. Improvements will focus on increased access to hunter walking trails at wildlife management areas across the state. 

There is $2 million for improved wayfinding and signage, to create or improve trailhead signage at priority wildlife management areas and hunter walking trail networks. 

Additionally, the DNR will update maps for four state forests, including creating maps that users can download using various map apps and access even without cell service. These maps will include a high level of detail and highlight nearby recreation opportunities like trails and public water accesses as well as state forest amenities. 

Wildlife management areas will receive improved signage and wayfinding at access points and hunter walking trails to increase function and accessibility for all users. 
There will be $1 million for adaptive equipment, including track chairs and accessible hunting blinds, and supporting infrastructure. The funds will be used to purchase nine more track chairs and other items needed to support the track chair program, such as storage sheds and trailers. 

Another need is for 65 pairs of specialized glasses. The glasses will assist visitors with red-green color deficiencies, to see colors outdoors. 

Adding kayaks and adaptive accessories is planned, as is the purchase of several mobile, fully accessible hunting stands for use during wildlife management area special and traditional hunts. 

As further details are available about these projects, information will be added to the Get Out MORE webpage of the DNR website (Get Out More

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