Reimagining the parks of the future

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Mississippi headwaters
Walking the rocks at the Mississippi River headwaters in Itasca State Park is a big draw for many of the nearly 500,000 visitors each year.
File | MPR Photo | Tom Robertson

We had a conversation a few weeks ago with an urbanist named Gil Penalosa who works with cities to make them more accessible and usable for people young and old. One of his focuses is city and urban parks and how they can connect communities.

It made me wonder where state parks fit into that conversation. Next year will mark 125 years of state parks in Minnesota. In 1891 lawmakers approved legislation setting aside land that would be free from cutting and timber commercial usage — a big deal at that time in northern Minnesota.

"The name of said park shall be the Itasca State Park," reads the law. "And the same is by this act dedicated to the perpetual use of the people of this state under the proper restrictions hereinafter provided, or which may be hereafter provided by law."

Our relationship with public space and the natural world has shifted dramatically over the years, and so has the role and use of state parks. So let's reimagine the state parks of the future, and parks of the future, in general. My guests include Erika Rivers who oversees Minnesota's state parks as Parks and Trails Director at Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

And Setha Low, Professor of Environmental Psychology, Geography, Anthropology, and Women's Studies at The Graduate Center at City University of New York.

What needs to be the focus of agencies like the DNR in running and creating and overseeing state parks? What has to be considered when we talk about the future of such areas?

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