The news had me searching for answers.
And I wasn't alone.
According to recent surveys conducted by the Minnesota DNR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, there has been a decline in participation of outdoor activities in Minnesota.
The DNR is seeking ideas as it attempts to address this troubling trend. You can review the draft and share ideas on what to do by visiting www.mndnr.gov (click on the State Outdoor Recreation Plan tab under features in the upper right-hand corner). Comments will be accepted through Nov. 9.
But how did it come to this?
According to the DNR, these declines are not unique to Minnesota. They are occurring across the country. But the fact that Minnesota is the rule here rather than the exception is alarming. This is Minnesota, after all, the land of 10,000 outdoor activities.
But apparently, nature-based outdoor recreation does not have the priority it once did for the state's younger people.
What's replacing traditional outdoor recreation? While much remains unknown, according to the DNR, likely candidates include television, computer gaming and over-programmed lifestyles. According to the surveys, the decline likely will continue, given how broad-based they are.
I had heard this talk before. And, I guess, in this day and age, it's inevitable - for, say, the Twin Cities. But here in lake country, it's tough to swallow. I don't know how the numbers of these surveys break down regionally, but I'm guessing that the Brainerd lakes area, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the North Shore and other such outdoor havens in the state are the exception to this rule. But does it really matter?
What makes this all even more difficult to stomach is that the culprit isn't the kids - it's Minnesotans my age who were raised exploring and enjoying the great outdoors.
According to the DNR, deeper exploration of the research shows the declines are most closely associated with the 16- to 44-year-old age group. The older end of that age bracket is the generation that now should be passing outdoor recreation experiences on to their children.
What happened? How can't you share your love of something with your children? And who will do this now?
According to the DNR, anecdotal data points to the growing role grandparents are playing in sharing outdoor recreation experiences with grandchildren.
What are some of the implications of declining participation? According to the DNR, a 2006 survey by the United Health Foundation found that while Minnesotans are generally healthier than the rest of the country, Minnesotans share the phenomenon of growing fatter.
The survey indicated people who live in this state have witnessed a 132 percent rise in the obesity rate since 1990. Obesity is a key predictor of future health problems, including diabetes. In addition to physical health, there are troubling indicators that our mental health is suffering, too.
So who's to blame? All of us, it appears. And how do we change this trend? Go to the aforementioned DNR Web site and share your ideas. The future of Minnesota as we know it - or knew it - could depend on it.
BRIAN S. PETERSON, outdoors editor, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5864.
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