An updated strategic plan for guiding future development of Greater Minnesota’s regional parks and trails, including ensuring those areas are inviting and accessible to underserved communities, is now available to the public from the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission.

Established in 2013, the commission identifies regionally significant parks and trails in Minnesota’s 80 counties outside the seven-county metropolitan area and provides grant recommendations to the state Legislature. Funding comes from the Parks and Trails Legacy Fund, part of the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment approved by state voters in 2008.

“Many people have worked hard to build a system of regional parks and trails that all Minnesotans can be proud of,” said Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission Board Chair Thomas Ryan in a news release, adding that to date the organization has designated 64 parks and trails as regionally significant. “This updated strategic plan ensures we have consistent, detailed criteria for creating a seamless outdoor recreation system that integrates with those of our partners at the Department of Natural Resources and Metropolitan Council Regional Parks.”

Area designated parks and trails include Aitkin County Northwoods ATV Trail, Crow Wing County Milford Mine Memorial Park, Lake Shore Gull Lake Trail, Mille Lacs County Plains to Port Trail, Morrison County Belle Prairie Park, Morrison County Soo Line Trail.

The 86-page plan, filled with photos, maps and graphs, is designed to help local parks and trails agencies around Greater Minnesota develop effective proposals for regional designation and funding. As more agencies prepare their initial or updated master plans, they can look to this strategic plan for clearer standards and tools that will help tell their regional story. The plan includes criteria for making parks and trails inviting and accessible to underserved communities and people with mobility or other challenges, identifies new ways of monitoring and measuring success, and more.

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The entire strategic plan may be found at www.gmrptcommission.org. Residents may also ask to have a printed version mailed to them by contacting Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission Executive Director Renee Mattson at renee.mattson@gmrptcommission.org.

“Achieving designation requires an applicant to work through a detailed process that ensures each park or trail is of the quality Minnesotans and visitors expect when enjoying regionally significant facilities. The strategic plan provides guidance to help applicants think broadly and boldly about not only what the facility is now, but what it could be,” said Mattson.

She added the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission.

will have a series of online workshops in June to help agencies understand the new plan’s contents. Information about workshop times and dates is at www.gmrptcommission.org.

Since its inception, the commission has awarded more than $52 million in grants to regional parks and trails across Greater Minnesota. Combined with $20 million in community investments, grants are used to fund infrastructure improvements, land acquisitions, new facilities, trail rehabilitation and more.