Whether the weather knows it or not, summer is here.
It’s time to make up for that short, short spring, and time to put your outdoor recreational plans into motion. Bike, hike, camp, paddleboard and swim throughout Carver County’s three regional parks: Lake Minnewashta Regional Park, Lake Waconia Regional Park or Baylor Regional Park.
Last summer, Carver County Parks and Carver County Public Health tested a fee-free parks admission after 3 p.m. summer Sundays at its regional parks. The program, "Free Afternoon in the Parks" was a hit and park attendance was up 50%, said Samuel Pertz, Parks & Trails supervisor for Carver County Parks.
This year, the county will once again offer the free admission program from 3 to 10 p.m., Sundays through Labor Day.
“It lines up with our 12-5 p.m. equipment rental time,” Pertz said. It’s family-friendly, too, because “it cuts the cost for families to come and enjoy our parks. They can pack a lunch, come to the park, rent equipment, swim, hike, and have fun. This is the second year of the two-year pilot program.”
The idea germinated with the Three Rivers Park District several years ago, Pertz said. “What could encourage more visitors to the parks by eliminating the hurdle of park entrance fees?” Pertz said.
Three Rivers found the program successful and park usage went up. Losing park fees will impact the budget, but Carver County commissioners are interested in making the regional parks more accessible and affordable for everyone, Pertz said. And the county is interested in promoting a healthy lifestyle for residents.
“The collaboration fits both the county’s parks programming and the county’s public health initiative to encourage people of all ages to come out, exercise in the fresh outdoors,” said Pat Stieg, Carver County public health program specialist.
What else is in store at the county parks? Read on.
Overnight camping is available at Baylor Regional Park. The park is located in western Carver County on Eagle Lake at 10775 County Road 33, Young America.
The 2019 season opened May 10 and runs through Oct. 19. The county has now made it possible for campers to make camping reservations 12 months out. So you can save that date for 2020 now.
Beaches with lifeguard coverage everyday from noon to 6 p.m., June 8 and runs through Aug. 18, at Lake Waconia and Minnewashta Regional Parks.
3. Picnic shelter rentals
Have a birthday party, a wedding, a reunion coming up? Now is the time to reserve a picnic shelter in any of the county’s regional parks. Not only can you can book for this season, but as with camping reservations, book 12 months out. So get out the calendar and start your plans for summer 2020.
4. Outdoor equipment rental
Lake Minnewashta Regional Park: noon to 5 p.m., weekends. Canoes, stand-up paddle boards.
Baylor Regional Park: 11-6 p.m. weekends. Canoes, stand-up paddle boards, disc golf, paddle boats.
5. Outdoor educational programming
Plan your birthday party, family reunion, scouting event or any other special occasion with Carver County Parks. Contact the Park Office for more information at 952-466-5250.
And there are two demo-style programs for the Fourth of July and Labor Day, Sept. 2. Participation is free.
- Thursday, July 4, 10 a.m.-noon, Lake Minnewashta Regional Park, archery, in collaboration with Chanhassen Park and Recreation; 1:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m., Lake Waconia Regional Park, archery
- Monday, Sept. 2 (Labor Day), noon-1:30 p.m., Lake Minnewashta Regional Park, archery, in collaboration with Chanhassen Park and Recreation.
6. Regional trail connections
Walkers and cyclists and anyone who loves the county’s public trail system will be happy to know that work begins this summer on further connections to the county’s extensive trail system. Look forward to using these trail connections in 2020.
- Construction begins this summer to make a key connection in the city/regional trail system. The current southbound trail from Minnewashta Parkway goes beneath Highway 5 to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum where it currently ends. The project will extend the trail adjacent to along the south side of Highway 5, all along the Arboretum property east to Highway 41 and a new underpass, taking the trail past Life Time's corporate building to Century Boulevard, Chanhassen.
- And, finally the reconstruction of the Minnesota Bluffs Regional Trail Extension from Bluff Creek Drive in Chanhassen to the Hennepin County line will take place in 2020. The trail washed out several years ago, and walkers and cycle enthusiasts are anxious for it to reopen.
7. Bike Fix It stations
Here’s an extra sense of security for cyclists of all levels, from beginner to road warrior. Carver County Parks and Carver County Public Health collaborated to install two Bike Fix It stations along two popular bike trails.
Low or flat tire slowing you down? Loose screw, or have a need to adjust your seat or handlebars? Stop at the Bike Fix It station where you’ll find a bike-friendly post you can hang your bike up off the ground, and use the tire pump, and some essential bike tools you might need for a quick tune-up.
Look for the Bike Fix It stations at the Mayer Trailhead on the Dakota Rail Regional Trail and at the Carver Depot Station Trailhead on the Minnesota River Bluffs Regional Trail. And remember to wear your helmet.