Words from Wiger: Enjoy our parks and trails

MN State Senator Chuck Wiger, District 43

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”

—author John Burroughs


The great parks and trails in our community and throughout the state give people of all ages and abilities the opportunity to cut short their screen time and reconnect with nature. In all seasons, being outside makes your spirits rise.

From the sparkling lakes up north to the scenic bluff country down south, Minnesotans love their extensive system of state parks, trails and recreational areas. In addition to physical exercise, these areas feature outstanding learning opportunities for kids.

Our beautiful state has more than 1,300 miles of public trails. From smooth, railroad-grade bike trails to natural terrain for riding on horseback, you are bound to find a trail that fits your needs. For your next adventure, use the guide at www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_trails/trailstartup.html to find trails with your preferred terrain, location or difficulty.

Minnesota’s 76 parks, 13 state trails, and 62 state forest campgrounds served more than 12 million visitors last year.

The newest state park, Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park in Soudan, Minnesota, opened last year. It is the first new state park to open in 25 years. The new park features the Vermilion Ridge Campground with electrical hookups available. Projects starting this year at the park include:

• Eight camper cabins that sleep up to six people.

• A hiking trail from the campground to Onumuni Overlook on Cable Bay.

• A picnic shelter for large groups near the historic mine.


State parks within easy driving distance of the Twin Cities include:

• Afton State Park, Afton

• Fort Snelling State Park, St. Paul

• Interstate State Park, Taylors Falls

• Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, Nerstrand

• St. Croix State Park, Hinckley

• William O’Brien State Park, Marine on St. Croix


In addition to state parks, Minnesota’s vast network of regional and local parks and trails offer many more opportunities to reconnect with nature.

From bird watching in Katherine Abbott Park in Mahtomedi to biking on the Gateway State Trail, Minnesota has it all.

The Tamarack Nature Center is a 320-acre preserve within Bald Eagle-Otter Lakes Regional Park in White Bear Township. The expansive Nature Center offers more than four miles of turf trails, paved trails and boardwalks for year-round access to forests, prairies, ponds and several outstanding play areas. Start exploring soon at 5287 Otter Lake Road, White Bear Township, or visit www.ramseycounty.us/residents/parks-recreation.

With the help of many advocates, state funding for the Lake Links paved trail around White Bear Lake was approved this legislative session. Watch for progress on this important asset for our region.

The Maplewood Nature Center & Neighborhood Preserves offers 1.5 miles of hiking trails that wind through wetlands and woods and a visitor center with live snakes and salamanders. The visitor center is located at 2659 E. Seventh St. in Maplewood. Discover more about the center by visiting www.maplewoodmn.gov and searching “Nature Center.” I encourage you to take advantage of many other parks in Maplewood as well, such as Joy Park, Hazelwood Park and Wakefield Park, which offer biking, fishing, swimming and more.

The Oakdale Discovery Center is an award-winning facility nestled in the beautiful Oakdale Nature Preserve. Visitors of all ages are invited to learn about nature through a variety of art exhibits, a large aquarium, a hands-on wildlife exhibit room, as well as plenty of hiking trails. 

The nature preserve which surrounds the Discovery Center is a 220 acre outdoor recreation area which also offers many places to explore. You can find the Discovery Center at 444 Hadley Ave. N., or by visiting www.ci.oakdale.mn.us/240/Discovery-Center.

Make sure to also check out Richard Walton Memorial Park in Oakdale and its many amenities, including a fun band shell for summer music, tennis courts and a skateboard park.

North St. Paul’s Casey Lake Park has a beautiful new park building in addition to a great playground, walking/biking trail and ball fields. And Silver Lake Park in North St. Paul offers tennis courts, a swimming beach, volleyball courts and a fishing pier.

Here’s an interesting website that shows you where to find the best bike, walking and running trails in the St. Paul area: www.traillink.com/city/saint-paul-mn-trails.aspx

If you’re feeling extra adventurous and want to explore beyond the metro area, you can find outdoor activity across the state. Whether your family prefers biking, long distance trails or simply beautiful places to walk — the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources offers a great website that allows you to find the perfect trail for your needs. Discover your next adventure at www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_trails/index.html.

For those who enjoy camping or want to try camping for the first time, our state parks are family friendly and accessible. One tip: make your reservations early. These are popular destinations. Visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/reservations.html to learn more.

We have many of our neighbors throughout the community to thank for the creation and maintenance of these thousands of miles of trails. These volunteers have worked diligently for many years, serving on various commissions related to the outdoors. 

I encourage you to hike a new trail or visit a state or local park. It is a beautiful world. Enjoy!


As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions regarding any issue. I encourage you to visit me at the Minnesota Senate Building, Room 2219. A visit to our restored Capitol makes a fine summer outing! Let me know if you would like me to stop by your home or apartment. I can be reached by email at sen.chuck.wiger@senate.mn, and by phone at 651-296-6820, or 651-770-0283.

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