Study shows increased visits from people of color and highlights the impact of state park visits on local economies
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently completed a study of state park visitors. The study engaged more than 2,000 park visitors during the 2022 summer season and consisted of a visitor survey, an economic impact assessment, and focus groups. The final report shows increasing diversity among park visitors, examines the economic impact of state park visitation on the state’s economy and provides information to help guide Minnesota DNR investments.
The visitor study’s findings offer suggestions for future investments, including continued efforts to make state parks more welcoming and accessible to visitors of all abilities and backgrounds. The state’s recently enacted Get Out MORE (Modernize Outdoor Recreation Experiences) investments will help the DNR pursue these kinds of improvements at state parks.
“We are thrilled about how the Get Out MORE funding will improve Minnesotans’ experiences on our public lands and waters across the state,” said DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen. “This funding will help make state parks more accessible and welcoming places for Minnesotans to connect to the outdoors.”
The results also show an increase in visitation by people of color, who made up 11% of state park visitors in 2022, up from 5% of visitors in 2017.
“The visitor study shows that Minnesota DNR is making progress toward our goal of inclusivity, though there’s still more work to do,” said Ann Pierce, director of the Minnesota DNR’s Parks and Trails Division. “We will continue our efforts to expand access to public lands for traditionally underserved communities and to welcome new visitors to outdoor recreation in state parks.”
In the last several years, the Minnesota DNR has prioritized efforts to increase diversity among state park visitors, deploying new strategies such as more inclusive marketing, the state parks library pass program, skill-building programming and investments in adaptive equipment like all-terrain track chairs.
In addition, the study highlights the importance of state park visitation to Minnesota’s economy, with visitors spending more than $688 million in local communities each year. Visitors from outside Minnesota contribute an estimated $147 million per year to Minnesota’s economy during their trips to Minnesota state parks.
"State parks are economic engines for Minnesota communities with each visitor spending an average of $67 per person per day,” said Randolph Briley, director of the Outdoor Recreation Industry Partnership. “This is spending that goes directly to community businesses, increasing revenue and supporting local jobs."
To read the full report on the 2022 study, visit the Minnesota DNR’s state parks and trails studies webpage.