Tony Dingmann, Sartell
A few hours ago I was awakened by a chorus of songbirds outside my bedroom window signaling the start of another day. It was 5:30 a.m., well more than an hour before the sun would begin to rise. I started the coffee, then slipped on my jacket to take our dog outside. I paused on the front step to take in the refreshing 28-degree spring air and listen to the orchestra of geese, ducks, turkeys, Sandhill Cranes and songbirds. I thought back to the past month and so much has changed in the world, from going about our daily, rushed lives to now having limited human interaction with no kids’ activities and where most of us are working from home. I then realized how much has changed outside as well: from ice on lakes to open water, limited birds to now my feeders being full of feathered visitors, and from snow on the lawns to signs of green grass.
As adults, time spent in the outdoors allows us to breathe in fresh air, explore the landscape and view wildlife. This leaves us feeling refreshed and perhaps, if even for a moment, takes our mind off our daily worries and the uncertainty in our world right now. For kids, this time outdoors can be a much needed break from the indoors and screen time; and perhaps open their eyes to a world they may not otherwise see. We are fortunate here in the St. Cloud area to be surrounded by public lands which do not require permits or special equipment to visit. With nothing needed other than a means of transportation and a pair of shoes, the opportunities for local exploration are endless.
Just this past week, myself, my wife and two daughters explored Mississippi River County Park, Sauk River Regional Park and Kraemer Lake-Wildwood County Park, all roughly 10 minutes from our house. Each offers a unique view into the outdoors: from countless tree and plant species, miles of hiking trails, swift flowing rivers, abundant wildlife, picnic areas and plenty of room to social distance from others at the park. Our kids were entertained identifying animal tracks, throwing rocks, bird watching, stomping in the mud, all without one thought of screens, wifi or phones.
We all contribute dollars to supporting these local, public parks through our tax dollars: their maintenance, trail grooming, equipment and resources. This means we all have part ownership in these parks, and we should take full advantage of all they have to offer. These parks are meant for everyone, for the first-timers to experts, all can enjoy what the Minnesota outdoors has to offer.
In addition to the parks I mentioned above, we are lucky to also have the Beaver Island and Wobegon trails, Quarry Park, Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, several State Wildlife Management and State Scenic Areas all only a short drive from the St. Cloud area. The current shelter-in-place allows for time outside to exercise, fish, hunt and hike and we should take full advantage of it. During this time when we have increased time and opportunity to be with family, I invite you to explore one or several of the public areas around us. Take this time to introduce your kids (or perhaps yourself) to nature. I hope it will lead to an appreciation for the outdoors and open your eyes to all that our great state of Minnesota has to offer. I hope to see you on the trail!