MINNEAPOLIS -- There are hundreds of parks and trails in Minnesota, including some much closer than you'd think.
But there's never been a single place to explore the possibilities for your next getaway. Until now.
Minnesota Tuesday launched a new online trip planning tool, Minnesota Great Outdoors, a website that allows you to browse through state and regional parks and trails and apply filters to limit your searches to fit your needs.
"Having traveled the state extensively, with a teenager in tow -- there was always this 'When are we going to stop? What are we going to do?'," Minnesota Information Technology Commissioner Johanna Clyborne told reporters, at an event introducing the new website.
"The ability to go to a single place and figure out what's near us, and to use it, is a great feature."
The Minnesota Great Outdoors site features interactive maps, and links to the venue's web pages. One of the search filter categories is accessibility, allowing you to instantly see a list of accessible places.
"If you have a family member, or you yourself, are in a wheelchair, or if you've got baby strollers, those are features you can add into your search."
The funding for the new travel tool came from the Legacy Amendment statewide sales tax.
But it was Minnesota's Information Technology Services, or MnIT, that created the streamlined system that seamlessly pulls together information from the Dept. of Natural Resources, the Metropolitan Council and the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission.
"You might have somebody reporting trail miles in kilometers, you might have another one in linear acres, and you might have another one in miles," Minnesota State Parks Director Erika Rivers explained.
"These guys at MnIT are really the ones who put that all together. They made sure all the data talked to each other."
Alicia Vin Zant, who owns the Seven Spokes Bike Shop in St. Paul, is among those who tested the Minnesota Great Outdoors website, both from the perspective of a business owner and as mother of a large family that travels.
"I could literally go through and say we want this, we want that, we want a beach, we want to park, and I was able to narrow it down to five places, and it showed it on a map," Vin Zandt explained.
"I'd never been to Bemidji before. So, I can actually look and say that’s going to be a very long road trip with 9 children. Sometimes we’re up for it, sometimes we’re not."
She said she also was happy she could filter camping sites to check for specific amenities.
"We want electricity at the campsite. And, running water -- with twins in diapers, running water’s kind of a necessity."