Enjoy Memorial Day weekend in the outdoors, but play it safe

May 21, 2020


For Minnesotans, Memorial Day weekend is about honoring those who have died in service to their country, and also about enjoying the long weekend that marks the traditional start to summer.

For many, that might mean enjoying family time together outside, whether it is picnicking, boating, hiking, fishing or any of a range of other recreational activities.

Minnesota state parks and trails are open, state-managed water accesses are available, and dispersed camping in state forests is open to folks wanting a wilderness-like experience. Other public lands, including wildlife management areas and scientific and natural areas, are also open to public use.

So, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s a great range of options for fun and adventure this holiday weekend. And, while outdoor safety is always important, this year it’s even more essential that Minnesotans play it safe in order to keep themselves and others healthy and out of harm’s way.

“We know that Minnesotans are embracing the outdoors right now, and Memorial Day weekend is an important date on the calendar for family time,” said Commissioner Sarah Strommen. “We want Minnesotans to know they can get outdoors, have fun and do it safely too.”

Playing it safe means new considerations like adhering to social distancing guidelines, not gathering in groups larger than 10 and following other outdoor recreation guidelines. It also means familiar tips for enjoying a safe day on the water, not spreading aquatic invasive species, and being safe in the woods.

“Boating is a great way to enjoy the Memorial Day weekend, but a safe day on the water means  wearing your life jacket,” said Lisa Dugan, DNR recreation safety communication coordinator. “It’s the best way to ensure an unexpected fall into cold water doesn’t turn tragic.”

Minnesotans care about their waters and they play a vital role in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Every time their boat comes out of the water – whether an AIS inspector or enforcement officer is present – boaters must clean aquatic plants and debris from their watercraft, drain lake or river water, and dispose of unwanted bait in the trash. Boaters must remember to keep their drain plugs out and water-draining devices open while transporting watercraft.

Off-highway vehicle users can have a fun and safe weekend by wearing seatbelts on side-by-side vehicles, being careful on spring trails with flooding or damage, and ensuring that children wear helmets and other personal protection gear and they are properly paired with a machine’s size.

Dispersed camping is also a great way to get outdoors this weekend. While developed campgrounds remain closed under the state’s current executive order, dispersed camping in state forests is allowed. The DNR is working hard to safely begin a phased reopening of campgrounds and some additional facilities and programs beginning June 1.

Whether they are out in the woods or working in their yard clearing brush, Minnesotans should be aware that most of northern Minnesota is under high or very high fire danger and burning restrictions are in place. Check current fire conditions in your area.

For the latest in outdoor news and updates on the agency’s COVID-19 response, visit the DNR’s website and follow the DNR on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.