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State parks permit sales increase

If you guessed there was an increase in camping traffic going north on State Highway 61 in Lake County last month, the numbers may prove you right.

Following a busy summer season during which the number of occupied

campsites increased 9 percent over 2008, business continues to boom at Minnesota's state parks, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

A report released this week shows vehicle permit sales for September were the highest on record, with sales of annual permits up 36

percent from September 2008 and sales of daily permits up 32 percent.

Specific increases at Lake County's four parks will be reported in Friday's News-Chronicle.

"The warm weather earlier this fall has definitely been a

contributing factor," said Courtland Nelson, director of the DNR's

Parks and Trails Division, "but other factors have also likely

Nelson said research conducted in 2007 on what was keeping young families from spending more time outdoors moved the parks division to expand the number of family-oriented interpretive programs it offers at parks. It also launched a statewide geocaching program and built more camper cabins (25 were added in 2008).

Campground expansion plans are also being made at Split Rock.

The Parks and Trails Division has been using radio and print ads to try

to raise awareness among 25- to 49-year-olds about outdoor recreation

and vacation opportunities at Minnesota state parks and state trails. It

also has a much-improved Web site - with features ranging from fall

color reports updated every Thursday by park staff to a "Minnesota

State Trail Start-up" page with tips for new users - which has helped

visitors with their trip planning this fall.

"We are pleased to see that these efforts appear to be moving us

toward our goal of getting the next generation outdoors," Nelson said.