Minnesota has some special assets in its state parks. Unfortunately it costs money to upkeep them and keep them in shape for future generations to enjoy. It's why it costs money, through a permit, to visit Minnesota's 72 state parks.
And that's why Sunday provides an unique opportunity for all Minnesotans. This Sunday is the first Sunday in June -- and the annual day for Minnesota State Parks Open House, when Minnesotans can sample the wares at all the state parks at no cost.
Minnesota's state parks are truly a treasure and should be visited by all state residents at least once a year. And they are as far away from the rest of society as you want it, or as near.
For instance, Lake Bemidji State Park is a gem of an asset within a bike ride of anywhere in Bemidji. Yet it offers campsites away from the hubbub of the city -- so good, in fact, that reservations need be made months in advance. Its bog walk is a fantastic odyssey into an area of the park teeming with rare orchids. This Sunday, during open house day, visitors will be treated to a 1:30 p.m. Concert in the Park, hosted by the Headwaters School of Music and the Arts. The weekly event at the outdoor amphitheater sees performances ranging from bluegrass and gospel to folk and pop music.
The state's busiest state park is luckily only a half-hour drive from Bemidji -- Itasca State Park. The open house Sunday features the second year of the Picnic in the Park from noon to 4 p.m. at various places in the park. Included is a slate of family entertainment, an ice cream social, a loon calling contest, the Park Rapids Community Band, and various contests for adults and kids. And, of course, the picnic in the park picnic grounds. Bring your own or buy grilled hot dogs, chips and pop.
Events such as that which are featured at our two local parks will be a part of the day at all 72 state parks and recreation areas throughout the state. First lady Mary Pawlenty will kick off the open house with remarks at 11 a.m. today at Fort Snelling, as the Minnesota Historical Society joins the state Department of Natural Resources in celebrating an open house at 26 historical sites and museums as well.
Minnesota's state parks perform a vital role in ensuring our environmental sustainability, and provide a setting for all state residents to recreate -- whether it be fishing off a dock, camping in a primitive site, bird watching and hiking along many miles of trails, or just sitting in the grass and reading a book.
Hopefully the weather will be supportive on Sunday, with fall-like temperatures predicted north. Even if it's chilly, it's still free so put on a coat and check out Minnesota's best-kept secret.
And while Sunday is free, don't hesitate to enjoy Minnesota's treasures year-round. It only costs $25 for an annual vehicle permit, good for 12 months from date of purchase.