The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) created a master plan amendment to guide future development, natural and cultural resource management, and interpretation at Fort Ridgely State Park. The amendment will help the DNR prioritize new investments in the state park following closure of the golf course.
Fort Ridgely State Park is a core state park in Minnesota's state park system (Minnesota State Parks and Trails System Plan, 2015). Investments in core state parks emphasize providing well-maintained campgrounds, day-use areas, trails, and basic services and amenities. Core parks represent the typical state park experience that visitors have come to know and expect.
In 2016, DNR decided to close the Fort Ridgely golf course within the state park. In recent years, participation in golf has declined both at the park and nationwide. Most recently, only 4 percent of the park's annual visitors played golf during their visit, while 56 percent of the park's operating expenditures supported the golf course and golfing. In addition to being a high-cost, low-use activity for the park, golf has long been viewed as inconsistent with Minnesota's statutory direction and best practices for management of state parks.
Over the past year, DNR worked with a Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) and stakeholder groups to explore alternative recreation, interpretive and resource management opportunities for the park. The DNR considered input and proposals received during the planning process and developed a management plan amendment to guide future development and investments in this beautiful and historically significant state resource into the future.
Plan amendments are developed through an open public process. DNR staff worked with citizens, stakeholders, park users, tribal communities, and government representatives during the planning process. The process involved public input through a citizen advisory committee, public meetings, stakeholder outreach, a public open house and a 30-day public review period.
Follow this link for more information about prior public input opportunities, including presentations and summaries from citizen advisory committee meetings.
Fort Ridgely State Park, encompassing 1,044 acres within the Minnesota River Valley, is Minnesota's fourth oldest state park.
The site's historical significance is one of the park's outstanding aspects. Fort Ridgely was constructed in 1853 as the third U.S. military post in Minnesota built to defend the frontier. The fort stationed a small company of soldiers and their families until the beginning of the Civil War, at which time military troops were withdrawn and the fort was defended by volunteers. In the late summer of 1862, the U.S.-Dakota War began. Fort Ridgely was the site of a key battle in this war.
In 1896, the State of Minnesota purchased the old fort site with five acres of land to create a memorial to the participants of the war. In 1911, Fort Ridgely was established as a state park with the addition of 148 acres of land. Original acreage included portions of the historic fort site, outbuildings, early settlement wagon roads, and Pony Express Trail. In 1937, the Commissary building and other fort building foundations were reconstructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and National Park Service. Over the next several years, the CCC expanded park facilities by constructing picnic shelters, bathrooms, and trails.
Today's park visitors can snowshoe and snowmobile during the winter months or camp, fish, and horseback ride the rest of the year. In addition, they can visit an interpretive center with exhibits and information about the people and events surrounding Fort Ridgely during the 1850s and 1860s.
Learn more about Fort Ridgely State Park.
If you would like more information or have questions about this project, please contact:
Kathy Dummer, Regional Manager
DNR Division of Parks and Trails
Rachel Hopper, Policy and Planning Supervisor
DNR Division of Parks and Trails