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Cuyuna resident's photo featured on 2014 state park permit

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When residents stick their 2014 year-round permit on their vehicles to gain entrance into Minnesota state parks and recreation areas, a landmark in the Brainerd lakes area will be seen.

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The permit features the Miner’s Mountain Trail in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area — a photograph taken by Cuyuna resident Aaron Hautala, who also owns RedHouseMedia, an advertising, marketing and public relations agency in Brainerd, with his wife Beth.

“The view from the top of Miner’s Mountain is part of what makes Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area stand apart in the state of Minnesota,” Hautala said. “It’s a former mining site, and it’s visually breathtaking. It’s one of my favorite places to ride.”

The 38-year-old is honored that his photograph is on the state park permit.

“It’s really cool,” Hautala said. However, what’s even more exciting to him is that the permit promotes the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area — which is a 25-mile single-track mountain bike trail system that opened in 2011, with support from Legacy funding.

Hautala, who took the photograph in September of 2013, is an active mountain biker. Hautala is president of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew and was named to the International Mountain Bicycling Association’s Regional Leadership Advisory Council on behalf of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails. He’s donated hundreds of hours to the mountain bike trails project, including being part of the creative team coming up with a spiky-haired yeti mascot for the fat-tire winter bike event Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout.

Hautala sent his top 20 favorite photographs to the DNR for them to consider one for the state park permit.

“I looked through a couple of years worth of photos,” said Hautala. “They were really looking for (a photograph) of Cuyuna with mountain biking and having women being a part of it.

“I looked through hundreds of photos and pulled out the top ones. ... It was a long discussion and a lot of criteria that went into the process of choosing a photo.”

Hautala said the DNR liked the photo because it showed the trail system, women biking the trail, the lake and the fall colors of the woods.

Hautala said the photograph will help promote the Cuyuna trail system as well as promote the fact that mountain biking is not just a “25-year-old guy thing,” but that women also enjoy mountain biking.

The Minnesota state parks year-round vehicle permit costs $25 and it provides residents with unlimited access to all 76 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas for 12 months from the month of purchase.

Permits are available by calling the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367. Year-round permits as well as one-day permits that cost $5 can also be purchased at any state park or recreation areas with staffed offices.

“By purchasing a permit, you help maintain and improve the natural resources, facilities, and education and outreach programs that make Minnesota’s state parks among the best in the nation,” Courtland Nelson, director of the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division, said in a press release.

DNR officials reported they saw an increase in Minnesota state parks permit sales and overnight stays in 2013, indicating that more people are connecting with the outdoors. Sales of year-round permits totaled 136,300 in 2013, up 2 percent from 2012 and 21 percent from 2008, when Minnesota voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. The Parks and Trails Fund receives 14.25 percent of the sales tax revenue and may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.

“We got off to a slow start last year due to the cold, wet spring, so it was gratifying to finish 2013 ahead of 2012,” said Nelson. “We’re obviously pleased to see evidence of increasing interest in Minnesota’s 76 state park and recreation areas. This news comes at a time when national parks and many other states are reporting significant declines in their visits and overnight stays.”

Other signs that participation in outdoor recreation at Minnesota state parks and trails is increasing include:

• One-day state park permits sales increased 15 percent since 2008.

• Site nights have increased 10 percent since 2008. A site night is tallied when an overnight camping or lodging unit is occupied for one night.

• Participation in interpretive programs increased 37 percent since 2008.

• Participation in Legacy-funded I Can Camp! programs increased 110 percent since the program began in 2010.

• Unique views of state parks pages on the DNR website increased from 8.2 million in 2012 to 8.4 million in 2013.

Nelson attributes the increase in the popularity of Minnesota state parks to a general trend of more families “stay-cationing” to save money, programs and special events designed to attract visitors to parks during the “off-peak” seasons and continued high satisfaction ratings on customer service from visitors. He also credits Legacy-funded outreach efforts, including an active presence on Facebook and Twitter, the addition of virtual tours online and the installation of touch-screen information kiosks at Rosedale Center, the Minnesota Zoo and other family-oriented locations throughout the Twin Cities.

For more information on state park permits go to www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/permit.html.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER, staff writer, may be reached at jennifer.stockinger@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5851. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl.

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