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As MN state park permit price jumps, sales declined this past summer

ST. PAUL -- While state officials say it is too early to gauge the impact of a recent park permit hike, fewer Minnesotans bought them this past summer, according to park records.

In July, Minnesota raised the price of the vehicle permits to enter its state parks. The $2 increase for daily visits and $10 increase in the price of annual permits were the first in a decade.

Yet, while fewer permits were sold between the beginning of Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day, the state made more money.

According to the state’s Department of Natural Resources:

•Vehicle permit sales revenue in the summer rose from $4 million in 2017 to $4.4 million in 2018.

•Permits sold fell from 301,875 the summer of 2017 to 277,328 in 2018.

•Campsite reservations remained about 115,000 both years.

Noting the price increase came in the middle of the summer season, park spokeswoman Amy Barrett said it is too soon to understand what the impact will be. Plus, there were other factors to be weighed: Minnesota had a snowier spring and warmer summer than normal.

Barrett said that past research has shown that time, not price, is the barrier keeping more people from getting outdoors — and lack of information.

The state parks system has seen a dramatic increase in vehicle permit sales the past 10 years, from 323,504 in 2008 to a high of 503,009 in 2016. That mirrors the growth in programming like outdoor workshops for children and outreach efforts supported by funding from the Legacy Amendment.

But operational and maintenance costs are also increasing, Barrett said, which includes everything from trail upkeep to employee health care.

While there has been a slight drop in permit sales in 2017 and so far in 2018, state officials are confident the trend is still growth.

Outreach efforts got a big boost thanks to the Legacy Amendment that passed in 2008, and thousands of new people have been introduced to Minnesota’s parks and trails, Barrett said. And getting young families into Minnesota’s natural and historical landmarks is crucial to the future of the state’s parks system.

“We are in a really healthy position for connecting people to the outdoors,” Barrett said.

VISITING STATE PARKS

Daily Permits

•Old price: $5

•New price: $7

Annual Permits

•Old price: $25

•New price: $35

Source: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

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