Minnesota state park visitation, trail use, fishing license sales up amid pandemic

Frontenac State Park near Red Wing, Minnesota is among the state parks to see increased park visitation over last year, according to the DNR. (FOX 9)

With many events and activities canceled due to the pandemic, Minnesotans are making a point of getting outside this year. Data from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources shows park visitation, state trail use and fishing licenses sales are up compared to last year.

Overall, data from January through August shows park visitation is up seven percent from 2019. Parks visitation varies statewide, but parks closest to the Twin Cities metro and Rochester are seeing the highest visitation. Central region visits are up 70 percent. Fort Snelling, Frontenac Afton, and Wild River are among the parks with the greatest percent increase in year-to-date use.

From January to September, the DNR has sold 636,502 vehicle permits. That's about a 55 percent increase compared to same time last year. It's made for an increase of about $2.4 million in sales, so far.

From June to September, camping occupancy rates overall were up by nearly 13 percent compared to the same time frame last year. Occupancy rates for canoe-in/boat-in camping saw the biggest jump, up 30 percent compared to 2019.

The DNR's Parks and Trails division uses six permanent trail counters to monitor trail use. So far this year, use is 48 percent higher than last year. Cycling is up 51 percent and other trail use is up 42 percent. When the stay-at-home order was in effect, weekly traffic on trails was up 73 percent compared to the same week in 2019.

In addition to visiting parks and trail use, there's also increased interest in hunting and fishing.

There's a 10 percent increase in fishing licenses sales over last year, marking the highest sales through Labor Day since 2010. One Minnesota survey showed 18 percent of those interested in fishing became more interested during the pandemic, according to the DNR.

While firearms licenses for deer hunting has stayed about the same as last year, there's been a 15 percent increase in archery hunting licenses for deer compared to last year.