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Our need for nature — Camden Regional Trail and Camden State Park

For Marshall, two highly regarded outdoor amenities are right in our backdoor: the Camden Regional Trail and Camden State Park. Recently, the city of Marshall received the results of tracking the number of Camden Regional Trail users over the past year leading from the city of Marshall to Camden State Park.

The total number of passes on the Trail for the year was 24,521.  An impressive average of 2,043 passes per month. Camden State Park also has notable numbers. Over the last five years Camden State Park has annually averaged 90,000 visitors with just under 12,000 overnight visitors.

The Camden Regional Trail is a paved, multi-purpose recreational trail extending from Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU) through the city of Marshall and connecting area residents to Camden State Park. About 4 miles of paved trail connect adjacent campuses of Marshall High School and SMSU to a network of bike lanes in the city of Marshall.

At the west end of Marshall, the paved trail covers 10 miles of gently rolling hills between Wayside Park (along Minnesota Highway 23) to Camden State Park. The last section of the Trail between the city of Marshall and Camden State Park was completed in 2017.

Camden State Park was established to preserve a unique portion of the Redwood River valley and surrounding lands that are rich in natural resources and cultural history. The state purchased the property in 1934 and it became a state park in 1935. Today the park totals 2,245 acres and is the 12th oldest state park out of a total of 67 state parks in Minnesota.

Though Camden State Park was not established until 1935, it has long been a popular place for people to gather. The wooded valley provided shelter from the frequent winds and periodic fires that moved through the surrounding tallgrass prairie in early settlements.

The cold-water springs within the river valley’s steep walls keep it cooler and more humid than the surrounding prairie. Moist soils and cooler temperatures allow the growth of one of the most westerly examples of a native sugar maple/basswood forest. The park’s diverse habitats also include tallgrass prairie and wetlands.

A recent article reported on the topic that humans have an innate need to connect with nature. Dr. Brent Bauer of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester has studied this for the last 20 years and noted that people spend 90% of their time indoors, most of it sitting, and this has resulted in negative consequences.

Dr. Bauer states, “but when you are exposed to nature for two hours a week, inflammation, stress, anxiety and heart rate is reduced.” The Camden Regional Trail and Camden State Park thus have the ability to improve your overall health.

Besides the health benefits of being outdoors, bike trail development increases pedestrian and bike safety, has been shown to improve community spirit by connecting people and putting them in touch with the natural environment surrounding the trail.

In addition, state parks and bike trails make contributions to the local economy through visitor trip-related spending, and through park and trail operations-related spending, including facility construction and maintenance. Park and trail visitors spend money in association with their park and trail trip, and this spending fuels economic activity in the area of the park. If the visitors are from outside the local economy of the park and trail, their spending represents “new” dollars being brought into the local economy.

Camden Regional Trail and Camden State Park were made possible through the leadership and cooperation of the city of Marshall, Lyon County, and by state and federal funding.

Both important community assets that play an important role economically for the region as well as meeting our need for nature.

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