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LEGACY AMENDMENT NEWS PACKET                                                              Oct. 30, 2013
All news releases are available in the DNR’s website newsroom at www.mndnr.gov/news.
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IN THIS ISSUE-PARKS AND TRAILS FUND
Former rail line soon will be scenic spot to hike and bike
Jay Cooke State Park has revitalized interpretive center
Legacy-funded programs at Minnesota state parks and trails help connect people to 
   nature and outdoor recreation in growing numbers

NOTE:  Minnesota voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment on Nov. 4, 2008, by voting to increase the state’s sales tax. Tax dollars are dedicated to four funds: Outdoor Heritage Fund, Clean Water Fund, Parks and Trails Fund, and Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. On the fifth anniversary of the Legacy Amendment vote, the Department of Natural Resources is issuing three news release packets describing projects supported by the natural resources funds. This is the second of three news packets that will be issued today. The releases in this packet describe Parks and Trails Fund projects.


DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Former rail line soon will be scenic spot to hike and bike

By next fall, Brown’s Creek State Trail will be bustling with hikers and bikers, smiling and waving as they take in the beauty of their surroundings, pausing to catch their breath at interpretive displays about the history of the trail and maybe glimpsing bald eagles in the air or deer in the woods.

The 5.9-mile trail corridor, acquired by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in February 2012, will connect two of Minnesota’s most historic and scenic cities. When connected to the Gateway State Trail, the Brown’s Creek State Trail will carry users from the “Birthplace of Minnesota” in Stillwater to the state capital in St. Paul, traveling along former railways connecting the two communities. Construction is underway. The trail is slated to be open to the public by fall 2014.

“When completed, the Brown’s Creek State Trail will serve tens of thousands of hikers and bikers,” said Courtland Nelson, director of the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division. “In addition to providing a top-notch recreational amenity with health benefits galore, it will contribute to the region’s economic vitality. Bike-friendly shops and restaurants near the trail will benefit from an influx of trail users.”

Janna Murray, owner of Janna’s Hides and Rides in Stillwater, rents bikes now but expects to quadruple her fleet when Brown’s Creek State Trail opens.

“People are already calling and asking where they can ride,” she said. “People from out of town want to keep up their fitness when they’re on vacation, and the locals are excited to have rental bikes available so they can ride with their out-of-town guests.”

Rails and their supporting ties have been removed and structural improvements to two bridges -one over St. Croix Trail/state Highway 95 and one over the creek in Oak Glen Golf Course - are near completion. The next phase of construction involves building a new bridge over Manning Avenue, which should be complete by late June, with paving of the entire trail to follow in late spring or early summer. The trail will be accessible to users of all abilities, with an average grade of 1.1 percent, and no grades exceeding 2.2 percent.

“Not everyone is in physical condition to ride up Myrtle Street,” Murray noted. “It’s too steep. Brown’s Creek State Trail is the perfect solution, because it’s relatively flat, making it easier for many more people to bike in Stillwater.”

Linda Radimecky, an area naturalist for the Parks and Trails Division, is busy planning signs and programs to highlight the natural, cultural and historic features along the trail. She sees great potential for new, Legacy-funded programs involving hiking and biking along Brown’s Creek, a designated trout stream.

“The trail is rich with interpretive possibilities,” Radimecky said. “We’re looking into innovative ways to use technology and other means to bring the trail’s history to life for families, school kids and others. There are lots of fascinating stories to share about the role American Indians, logging, settlement and railroads played in the area.”

The state trail and the trout stream are named after Joseph R. Brown, an early explorer and settler in the area – and later, a state legislator – who built the “Tamarack House” and other early buildings north of Stillwater near the mouth of the creek. The trail follows a portion of the Northern Pacific railroad between Stillwater and Duluth Junction. Duluth Junction in the city of Grant was where the Northern Pacific crossed the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie or Soo Line. The Soo Line is now the Gateway State Trail.

The DNR acquired the land from David Paradeau, who operated the Minnesota Zephyr dinner train along the route until 2008.The acquisition was made possible with support from key partners. Washington County committed $1 million from its 2006 open space referendum funds toward the $4.25 million purchase early in the negotiations. DNR funding included $2.15 million from the Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund, administered by the Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources, and $1.1 million from the DNR’s Parks and Trails Fund, which receives 14.25 percent of the Legacy Amendment sales tax revenue and may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance. The nonprofit Gateway Trail Association (now renamed the Gateway-Brown’s Creek Trail Association), a strong advocate for the new trail, also contributed $1,000.

Given its proximity to the Twin Cities, with a population of 3.5 million people, the trail’s impact could be considerable. In 2008, recreational trail users contributed $2.4 billion in total spending and $206 million in state and local taxes, accounting for 31,000 jobs in Minnesota.

Minnesota’s statewide trail system includes more than 600 paved miles, and expands by about 10 new paved miles each year. Minnesota was named the “Best Trails State” in the country by American Trails in 2010, and it consistently ranks among the top five most
bike-friendly states (www.bikeleague.org/content/ranking).

To see a map and photos of the route to be developed for the Brown’s Creek State Trail, or to read the trail’s management plan, visit www.mndnr.gov (www.dnr.state.mn.us/input/mgmtplans/trails/browns_creek.html).

For more information on the Legacy Amendment, visit www.mndnr.gov/legacy.

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DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                  Oct. 30, 2013

Jay Cooke State Park has revitalized interpretive center

On June 19, 2012, severe thunderstorms arrived in northeastern Minnesota and reports of heavy rain and flash flooding hit the airwaves. Just after midnight the next day, flood warnings were issued for a number of counties, including Carlton, where 40 people camping in Jay Cooke State Park had to be evacuated.

As intense rain fell, it triggered dramatic flooding in the region and forced the park to temporarily close. The main road in and out of the park washed out and the popular 200-foot swinging suspension bridge was reduced to a tangle of broken metal, wood and stone pillars.

The flood became national news. What went mostly unreported in Minnesota, however, was that in the months leading up to the floods, Jay Cooke State Park’s River Inn interpretive building was renovated and reopened. Originally constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps between 1939 and 1942, the rustic style structure was built with Duluth gabbro (dark-colored igneous rock) and local white pine trees. The River Inn has interpretive exhibits and offices, restrooms and a large indoor warming area with a grand fireplace and picnic tables.

The project is an example of how the Parks and Trails Division at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is working to preserve and enhance the historic buildings and natural and cultural landmarks within the state park system.

DNR funding for the project included $462,500 from the Parks and Trails Fund, which received 14.25 percent of the Legacy Amendment sales tax revenue and may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance. This funding enabled Jay Cooke State Park to update and enhance a key state building that is listed on the National Register and hadn’t been significantly remodeled since the 1970s. Upgrades to the River Inn retained the building’s historic integrity and include:

  • New ADA-accessible restrooms with hot water.
  • New historically appropriate and energy-efficient power-assisted exterior doors.
  • New energy-efficient lighting in the interpretive exhibit area. 
  • Expanded interpretive and office space.
  • New interpretive exhibits that highlight the park in all seasons and present information about the park’s history and natural resources.
  • Upgrades to a large three-dimensional topographical map with recommended biking, photography, geology, history and nature routes to explore.

“The new building allows us to meet the needs of more visitors, such as school groups and people with disabilities,” said Kristine Hiller, park naturalist. “And the new interpretive exhibits help us tell a more complete story about the park’s unique features. Jay Cooke State Park has more than 50 miles of recreational trails, connects to the Willard Munger State Trail, and is home to the Swinging Bridge, which spans the incredible St. Louis River.”

For more information, visit www.mndnr.gov/jaycooke.

For more information about the Legacy Amendment, visit www.mndnr.gov/legacy.

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 DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                       Oct. 30, 2013

Legacy-funded programs at Minnesota state parks and trails help
connect people to nature and outdoor recreation in growing numbers

“Thank you for showing us the prairie and teaching us about prairies and why we have them,” said a fifth-grader from Osceola after a trip to Wild River State Park. “I had to drag my kids here, and now they won’t stop exploring,” said a dad who participated in an I Can Camp! program with his family. “This is one of the best uses of my tax dollars,” said a mother of three after participating in a canoeing program at Lake Louise State Park.

More people than ever are having positive experiences in nature as a result of Legacy funding for expanded programming at Minnesota state parks and trails. Legacy funding has allowed the Parks and Trails Division to offer more than 2,000 additional interpretive programs annually, with the help of a new Minnesota Naturalist Corps (www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/naturalistcorps.html). The Corps provides opportunities for 30 aspiring natural resource professionals to share their passion for the outdoors with key audiences, particularly youth, while gaining valuable job experience working as year-round or seasonal naturalists at Minnesota state parks and trails.

The need to invest in park programs that cater to children was identified in a 2007 Minnesota State Parks Research Report (files.dnr.state.mn.us/aboutdnr/reports/parks/2007_research_key_findings.pdf).The research revealed that families would visit state parks and trails if there were programs for children.

“Quite often, what we do as kids becomes what we do as adults,” said Pat Arndt, communications and outreach manager for the Parks and Trails Division. “If parents didn’t grow up camping or fishing or snowshoeing, they might not know how to get started with their own kids. Our naturalists and Naturalist Corps are there to help.”

New programs ranging from geocaching to digital photography to a series of skill-building programs, such as “I Can Camp” and “I Can Climb!” (www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/can_series.html) are getting people outdoors in growing numbers and helping to inspire a new generation of outdoor kids.

Participation in interpretive programs totaled 285,620 in 2012, a 37 percent increase since 2008, the year before Legacy funding became available. Legacy-funded programs accounted for 140,614 of those participants – nearly half of the total – in 2012.

Interest in the Legacy-funded “I Can!” programs has been especially strong, underscoring the demand for programs that teach basic outdoor skills to beginners. A total of 877 people participated in the overnight I Can Camp! programs in 2012 (up 51 percent since the programs were first offered in 2010), 650 participated in I Can Climb! (up from 562 in 2011) and 260 participated in I Can Paddle! (up from 166 in 2011).

Each region within the state now has archery equipment, purchased with Legacy money. Trained Parks and Trails Division staff can reserve the equipment for Archery in the Parks programs. These programs have proven to be very popular, reaching 8,278 participants during 104 events in 2012, a 46 percent increase from 2011.

 “I am really excited about how the Legacy funding has allowed me to get more people out paddling the Minnesota River and tributaries,” said Scott Kudelka, a Parks and Trails Division naturalist who has been doing outreach in the Mankato area. “There is something special about someone who has never been in a canoe before mastering the finer techniques of paddling a river and learning something about its historical, cultural and natural characteristics. Legacy funding has also allowed us to form successful partnerships with a variety of nonprofit organizations, including the New Ulm River Rangers and Minnesota River Valley History Center at Morton to provide a wide range of hands-on education programs for children."

For more information about the Minnesota Naturalist Corps, visit www.legacy.leg.mn/projects/minnesota-state-park-naturalist-programs-2010. For a list of upcoming programs at Minnesota state parks and trails, visit www.mndnr.gov or contact the DNR Information Center at info.dnr@state.mn.us, 651-296-6157, or toll-free 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The programs were funded from the Parks and Trails Fund, created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008. The Parks and Trails Fund receives 14.25 percent of the sales tax revenue and may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.

For more information on the Legacy Amendment, visit www.mndnr.gov/legacy.

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