The number of annual visits to regional parks and trails in the seven-county metro area grew to 48.7 million in 2014, according to newly released estimates from the Metropolitan Council.
That’s about 1.5 million more visits than 2013, an increase of 3.3%. Since 2005, annual visits have increased by more than 15 million.
“We’re very pleased that park visitation continues to go up,” said Council Chair Adam Duininck. “That is the direct result of local, regional, and state investments and partnerships that have helped create our world-class and growing parks and trails system, from northern Anoka County to southeastern Dakota County. People in this region and all throughout the state love our regional park and trails.”
Most popular parks are in central cities
The five most frequently visited parks in the regional system include:
Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park – 5,476,400 visits
Como Regional Park, Zoo, and Conservatory Special Recreation Feature – 4,311,000
Mississippi Gorge Regional Park – 2,692,700
Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park – 2,275,800
Minnehaha Regional Park – 1,686,600
Overall, 27% of all visits in 2014 were to regional trails, and 73% were visits to regional parks, park reserves and special recreation features. But many visits to regional parks are for trail use. For example, although Anoka County Riverfront, Minneapolis Chain of Lakes, and Mississippi Gorge are regional parks, the majority of visits to these parks are for trail use. If the trail visits to these parks are included in the trail totals, about 40% of all visits were to regional trails.
Carver County sees big jump in visits
More than half of all visits, 53%, were to regional parks and trails in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Park and trail visits increased most significantly in Carver County, where visits increased 103% from the preceding year. This is predominately due to the opening of the Southwest Regional Trail in 2014.
Not surprisingly, summer is the most popular time to visit the parks. About 41% of all visits occur in summer; followed by 22% in each the spring and fall; and 9% in winter. About 5% of all visits are for special events that attract more than 300 people; and another 1% of visits represent overnight camping.
The seven-county metro area boasts 54 regional parks and park reserves comprising nearly 55,000 acres, 340 miles of regional trails, and 8 special recreation features. The parks system is operated by 10 partner agencies, including cities, counties, and special park districts. These agencies work in partnership with the Council to protect natural resources and provide outdoor recreation for public enjoyment. The Council provides long-range system planning, funding, and coordination.