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Attracting residents: Renville County launching marketing campaign for parks

OLIVIA — With over 1,300 acres of woodlands and prairie, and lots of shoreline on the Minnesota River and two lakes, Renville County’s seven parks offer camping, hiking and fishing opportunities all within a short drive for all of the county’s residents.

Yet last year, only 28 percent of campers in the parks were county residents.

The county is launching a new marketing campaign this year in hopes of introducing more county residents to the parks. It also hopes to interest more young people in discovering the outdoor opportunities available close to home, according to Mark Erickson, director of community development and environment for the county.

The county park board also hopes to extend the visitor seasons at the parks, Erickson told the Renville County board of commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday.

Currently, most park usage occurs during the Memorial Day to Labor Day summer season.

The parks are launching a two-for-one, early camping season promotion and encouraging visits to the parks in the spring, fall and winter seasons, said Erickson.

The marketing campaign focused on introducing young people will rely heavily on social media, he said.

Surveys of campers indicate that the parks are popular with visitors for a wide range of reasons. Horseback riding, hiking, and fishing are the more prominent among them.

Surveys give the county a good idea of where campers are coming from, but currently there is no hard data on the origin of those visiting for day use. It is believed that a large portion of day use visitors are local residents.

Overall numbers are not known, but the parks also attract a sizeable number of out-of-state visitors, especially for catfishing opportunities along the Minnesota River.

The county has been improving the facilities at the parks, investing in new bathrooms and camping facilities. It has been working with the University of Minnesota and the Conservation Corps of Minnesota to improve the park infrastructure.

The county also recently approved taking steps to meet Department of Health licensing requirements for camping. They include making potable water available at camping areas.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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