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New regional parks map offers a peek at the future

If you hold the paper at the proper angle and squint your eyes just right, you can use a new map put out by the Metropolitan Council to see what our regional parks and trails may look like 20 years from now.

The new map, which is available at parks across the metro as well as county libraries and Metro Transit stores, is a GIS-generated product that is hitting the market at the right time, what with the price of gasoline and people taking more “staycations.”

“The map and guide showcase our wonderful system and get people out to explore a new park that perhaps they didn’t know existed,” said Jan Youngquist, a senior planner at the Met Council who was on the map team.

The viewer can look at the trails on the map and see where logical links and expansions can occur in the years to come. It complements the 2030 Regional Park Policy Plan. “It illustrates how we are trying to connect trails in the future,” Youngquist said.

There are 177 miles of regional trails at present; plans call for an increase by 700 miles in the next two decades — good news for bicyclists and in-line skaters, if it happens. Many of the proposed trails would tie existing regional parks together.

The map shows 49 regional parks and park reserves, 20 regional trails and six special recreation areas in the seven-county metro area. The regional parks and trails hosted 33 million visitors in 2007, an increase of nearly 10 million people from 1995. Youngquist expects the 2008 data to show another bump because higher transportation costs kept people closer to home this summer.

“We’ve got a well-loved, well-used park system,” she said.

The most popular destination in the system is the trail system around the Minneapolis chain of lakes. The Mississippi River Gorge, Como Zoo and Conservatory, and Minnehaha Falls are other big draws. The regional park system, which totals 53,000 acres, has been in place since 1974.

Maps also may be obtained by contacting the Met Council’s Data Center by phone at 651-602-1140 or by email at

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