The number of annual visits to regional parks and trails in the seven-county metro area in 2015 was 47.3 million, according to newly released estimates from the Metropolitan Council.
The Regional Parks System includes 54 regional parks and reserves, comprising nearly 55,000 acres, about 350 miles of interconnected trails, and 8 special recreation features. The most popular of all the parks continues to be Minneapolis Chain of Lakes, which had 5.1 million visits last year.
Visits to regional parks in Anoka County are up
Regional parks and trails in Anoka County had the most significant increase in park visitors in 2015 from the previous year, up 5.4%.
For the seven-county region as a whole, regional park visits were down 1.3% from 2014. Similar small decreases in visits were seen in 2006 and 2009.
The use estimate is based on four years of data to moderate any sharp increase or drop in a particular year caused by park openings, facility closures or extreme weather, for example. For example, in 2011, many parks and trails had a high number of visits, which were not included in the current year’s estimate.
Park visits up 14 million in last decade
Overall, parks visits are up by more than 14 million since 2005. During that time, 24 regional parks, park reserves, special recreation features and regional trails were added to the system. The regional population grew by about 194,500 during that same time.
Not surprisingly, the most popular parks are in the heavily populated central cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. The top parks and their 2015 visits:
Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park – 5.1 million
Como Regional Park, Zoo and Conservatory Special Recreation Feature – 4.3 million
Mississippi Gorge Regional Park – 2.7 million
Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park – 2.1 million
Minnehaha Regional park – 1.7 million
However, the share of visits to Minneapolis and Saint Paul parks and trails in the regional system has decreased over time. This is likely due to the addition of facilities, and population growth, outside of the central cities.
Trails attract about 40% of all visits
Overall, 27% of all visits in 2015 were to regional trails. However, the majority of visits to Anoka County Riverfront, Minneapolis Chain of Lakes and Mississippi Gorge are for trail use. If the trail visits to these regional parks are included in the trail totals, 40% of all 2015 visits were to regional trails.
Hardy Minnesotans visit the parks 4.3 million times in winter
In 2015, summer day use of regional parks and trails represented about 41% of all annual visits. Spring and fall day use each constituted about 22% of all visits. Winter ran way behind at 9% - but that still represents about 4.3 million visits to the parks and trails by hardy Minnesotans.
Council partners with other governments to create, maintain parks.
The regional parks and trails are operated by 10 partner agencies, including cities, counties, and special park districts. These partners work with the Council to protect natural resources and provide outdoor recreation for public enjoyment. The Council provides long-range system planning, investment and coordination.