Friends gather for annual meeting Sept. 6 at Maplewood

By Kim Pederson
Special Correspondent

Maplewood State Park Leaf Days are planned for Saturday, September 30, through Sunday, October 1. A $35 year-round vehicle permit provides unlimited visits to all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation sites.

Friends of Maplewood State Park, or Friends, will hold their annual membership meeting Wednesday, September 6, at 6:30 p.m. at the Josh Hanson Memorial picnic shelter in Maplewood State Park. 

“We are excited about Maplewood State Park’s future,” said Scott Stenshoel, president of Friends of Maplewood. “Friends work hand-in-hand with park management to support activities in the park.”

After an all-hands-on-deck year, Friends is going strong into the fall. Sue Nyhus will host a meditation session on Thursday, August 31, from 6:30 p.m. at the picnic shelter. “Although Maplewood State Park Leaf Days are planned for Saturday, September 30, through Sunday, October 1, fall colors in Maplewood are legendary most any time,” said Stenshoel.

“Equestrian trails and horse camping bring thousands of people to the park each year, and fall is the peak season for our horse enthusiasts,” said Denise Laymon, vice president of Friends of Maplewood. “We have been working with park management to improve the entrance road into and around the horse camp. It’s common to see four-horse trailers with large living quarters in horse camp. These rigs need large spaces to park and wide areas to turn. We also plan to improve the campsite markers to help with parking issues and better site access. Campers want water and electrical hookups at the campsites, and we’d like to find a way to make that happen, too.” 

Maple syrup a sweet educational experience

Park rangers have placed a high priority on the well at the Maple Syrup/Sugar Shack. 

“The spring maple syrup school program brought in 410 students, teachers, and parents in 2023. It continues to be a popular regular event,” adds Laymon. 

For 2023, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced the addition of all-terrain wheelchairs at 13 state parks across Minnesota, including Maplewood State Park. The DNR says the chairs are for use on trails unsuitable for traditional wheelchairs, allowing visitors to explore areas of the parks they may not have previously had access to. Officials are encouraging people to call and reserve the chairs ahead of time to ensure they’re available. 

“The chairs are free, but a state park vehicle permit is required for any vehicle going into a park,” said Laymon. There are discounted vehicle permits for anyone with a vehicle hang tag for a disability.

Trail segment at Maplewood Park anticipated in 2024, with 4.32 mile network

Riding is more than a sport or a hobby. Riding is feeling. Riding is trust. Riding is an attitude towards life. Riding in Maplewood is a glimpse of what heaven might be like.

The much-anticipated completion of the Maplewood segment of the Heart of Lakes regional trail is generating lots of buzz for the park. “Friends of Maplewood are developing a strategy to support and market the completed HOL trail.a The 4.2-mile segment in Maplewood is all that remains to complete the 32-mile-long trail. Construction will hopefully take place in the spring or summer of 2024,” said Stenshoel. “Lots of exciting things happening in this already beautiful park.”

Friends of Maplewood were busy as bees in 2023 with a full calendar of events, a new logo and website, a Facebook page update, and media strategy development. 

An AED, or automatic external defibrillator, was donated. Friends recently joined the Pelican Rapids Chamber of Commerce. “We appreciate all the support we have received,” said Laymon. 

“We are updating our bylaws and will present them for approval at our annual meeting. In addition, our July advisory board members voted to create a 501(c)3 organization. The decision will provide us with opportunities for growth and meet our compliance obligations,” said Stenshoel.