Legacy event celebrates Minnesota’s parks and trails

MARSHALL — One by one, they strapped on helmets and climbed aboard. But the ATV simulator set up in the Red Baron Arena wasn’t just a ride. As the stationary four-wheeler tilted backward, forward and side to side, riders were quizzed on their technique.

“You’re supposed to lean forward when you’re going up hills,” Brody Hauger said, after taking his turn on the simulator.

The combination of fun and education was a major focus at Sunday’s Parks and Trails Legacy Celebration, an anniversary event for Minnesota’s Clean Water, Land and Legacy Fund. The Legacy Celebration in Marshall is one of several events being held in different parts of the state.

The Legacy Amendment was approved by Minnesota voters in 2008. The amendment set a three-eighths percent sales tax to be used for clean water, habitat, arts, and parks and trails initiatives. The celebrations Sunday were dedicated to the parks and trails part of the Legacy Amendment.

Having Legacy funds available has made a big difference in regional parks and trails projects, like the construction of the Camden Trail project in southwest Minnesota, said Bob Bierscheid, a member of the Parks and Trails Legacy Advisory Committee.

“Without the support of the Legacy funds, a lot of the special things wouldn’t have gotten done,” Bierscheid said.

Event organizers hoped to connect people with the outdoors, while at the same time gathering public feedback on how Legacy funds should be used in the future, said Paul Purman, of the Minnesota DNR Parks and Trails Legacy Program.

Activities at the Red Baron Arena spotlighted both outdoor fun, and education about Minnesota parks and trails. Visitors answered trivia questions about state parks, and could even play a game talking about setting priorities for Minnesota parks and trails.

Scott Struelens, a youth outreach specialist for the Conservation Corps, gave each participant five poker chips, each representing $20. Participants were asked to put their chips on areas where they thought the money should be spent. Some of the choices included acquiring new park land, maintaining parks and trails or conserving natural resources.

Other displays showed people different ways to experience the outdoors, regardless of physical ability. A variety of adaptive equipment was available to try out, from Action Trackchairs to adapted bikes and tricycles that disabled cyclists could power with their arms. The Resource Center for Independent Living’s display also included adaptive gear for playing ice hockey, hunting, and cross-country skiing.

A new resource for Blue Mounds State Park, near Luverne, was showcased at Sunday’s Event. The new Bison Buggy, which was partly funded by Legacy dollars, is a safari-style tour vehicle that will allow park visitors to get a better view of the Blue Mounds bison herd.

The new prairie and bison tours being planned at the park will start on Memorial Day weekend, said Blue Mounds park naturalist Amber Brooks.

“It’s a one-and-a-half hour tour, where we actually go into the prairie,” Brooks said. Part of the route will follow existing trails, but then the tour will actually travel across the fenced-off area of the park where the bison roam, she said.

Families and youth made up a good portion of the visitors at the Legacy Celebration — and they seemed to be having fun connecting with the outdoors.

“I liked all of this stuff,” Blaine DeBeer said. She and Logan DeBeer tried out the ATV simulator, as well as riding bikes and maneuvering trackchairs around an indoor course. The two said they liked outdoor activities — Blaine likes biking, and Logan said he enjoyed camping and building campfires — and their family takes trips to visit parks.

“It’s pretty cool,” Gabe Anthony said of the different displays at the celebration. “I like how they give everyone an experience of how to do all the things here.”


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