On Friday, Nov. 27 Maria Lake State Park was offering free admission to visitors and people from all over took advantage.

Usually visitors need a parking pass placed on the dashboard of their vehicle in order to enter the park but not on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

The Lake Maria State Park and Sand Dunes FRA Staff said that there are several days throughout the year when admission is free to encourage people who might not come due to cost.

Future free days are announced on the state parks web page.

The park has rules in place to make sure people are staying safe and enjoying the outdoors.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said the three keys to enjoying Maria Lake State Park are: Planning ahead, arriving prepared with warm clothes and supplies, and following the rules.

Those rules include recreating only with members of your immediate houshold, staying home when you feel sick or have symptoms, paying attention to signs in the park, and practicing social distancing even when outdoors.

On Friday the park had visitors following the rules and enjoying the perks of free access.

The Hoke family decided their day off would be best spent enjoying the great outdoors rather than celebrating Black Friday.

Tim and Susan Hoke visited the park with their kids Henry and Meredith and their dog Ivy.

“We live near the cities, but Maria Lake State Park isn’t too far of a drive for a great hike,” Susan Hoke said. “Plus I thought this was a better idea than spending the whole day shopping.”

The park is known for it’s remaining strands of the “Big Woods,” a maple, oak, and basswood forest that used to cover a large portion of southern Minnesota.

There’s also marshes, potholes, and lakes filled with all types of wildlife.

There’s over 205 different species of birds, shrews, bats, moles, rabbits, woodchucks, pocket gophers, mink, red fox, and white-tailed deer.

Couple Chris Kauffman and Juae Son also enjoyed the park on Friday trying to work off all the turkey and stuffing they ate on Thanksgiving.

“We visit all types of state parks,” Son said. “We thought it would be a great way to start off our long weekend and get some exercise.”

A $35 year-round permit provides unlimited visits to all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas for a full year from the month of purchase.

For those who are wanting to camp you must make a reservation. Availability is limited with the ever-changing COVID-19 updates.

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