Park usage in the Twin Cities metro has reached an all-time high, increasing 22 percent from the 2016 reports.
The increase was reported by the Metropolitan Council after counting park visitors in the summer and then using survey-generated estimates for the fall, winter and spring usage.
The council estimates that there were 58.3 million visits made to the regional parks system in 2017.
The increase can be accounted for in the addition of Falls Regional Park in Minneapolis, Lake Links Regional Trail in Ramsey County and Minnesota River Bluffs Regional Trail in Dakota County.
The addition of these three locations has resulted in as many as 700,000 additional visits to the park system.
The council officials also believe they have acquired a more accurate reflection of park usage by collecting updated survey data. The data suggest more people are visiting the parks during the “off-season.”
“I am pleased with the increased activity in all park districts,” said Daniel Freeman, vice chair and a District 3 representative for Three Rivers Park District. “The message is getting out about how important the parks are and I think all the districts are doing a great job of engaging people with activities during all seasons.”
According to the Trust for Public Land, Minneapolis and Saint Paul park systems rank first and second in the nation for 2018. The rankings are based on acreage committed to parks, financial investment, amenities and access.
The Twin Cities region encompasses seven counties with 55 regional parks and preserves. Totaling 54,000 acres and 400 miles of interconnected trails, the metro park system has 106 trails or parks.
The most popular sites were the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes and the Como Park, Zoo and Conservatory.
More than three-quarters of all visits are to regional parks, special recreation features and park reserves. The remaining visits are to the growing network of regional trails. The top 20 most visited location comprise the top two thirds of all visitation statistics.
“Every district is developing lots of new engagements to keep people interested throughout the year,” said Freeman. “We also partner with schools to create programs that allow young students to get out and connect with the environment.”
Leading the state in visitation numbers is the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the City of Saint Paul. Not far behind is the Three Rivers Park District in Hennepin, Ramsey and Anoka counties.
In the Three Rivers district, Elm Creek Park Reserve and Hyland Lake Park Reserve draw the most visitors.
Scott County, when excluding parks and trails operated by Three Rivers Park District, had the fewest visits to regional parks and trails.
“I think the increase in park usage really shows how healthy the communities are here in our district as well as all the other districts,” said Freeman. “People are getting out, bonding with the area around them and also bonding with family and friends.”