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Why Love Lakes?

Photo of people by Bearskin Lake.

Visitors enjoy the scenic quiet of East Bearskin Lake in northeastern Minnesota. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Office of Tourism.

Why do people love to visit lakes? In Minnesota, they visit because the lakes are convenient - close to home. Most respondents (69 percent) to a recent statewide survey indicated this as one of a variety of reasons they visit lakes in the state. Scenery was the second most-chosen quality (54 percent). Good fishing came in third (45 percent).

Lakes are one of Minnesota’s hallmark resources. Development and use pressures can negatively impact lakes. Because of these potential impacts, Sea Grant and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently conducted a mail survey of 2,000 Minnesota residents (the return rate was 51 percent). The goal of the survey was to find out what the people of Minnesota think about the condition of Minnesota lakes. Are their thoughts the same as those of resource managers? Will people support actions to stem the negative impacts? If so, what kind of actions?

The data have just been crunched and we now have 45 pages of tables to sort through with all kinds of interesting information about how Minnesotans perceive their lake resources.

Another aspect the survey looked at is how important lakes are to Minnesotans. Over 90 percent of respondents agreed to the following statements: lakes are important whether Minnesotans use them or not, lakes should be taken care of for the future, lakes are important because of their beauty and atmosphere and for their fish and wildlife. While still significant to many, fewer people agreed that lakes are important because of their recreational values (80%), and economic values (70%).

For the purpose of the survey, the state was divided into seven main regions. When Minnesotans were asked the question about the future of the lake region that they know best, 40 percent said they expect water quality to remain about the same, 26 percent believed that water quality will improve, while 28 percent believed that water quality will worsen.

These statewide data are contrasted by the responses from residents of northeastern Minnesota. Fifty-two percent of northeastern Minnesotans felt that water quality will remain about the same, with 29 percent believing that water quality will improve, and 16 percent believing that water quality will worsen.

Lake graph.

Differences in Why Minnesotans Visit Lakes

The percentage of Minnesotans who choose to visit northeastern Minnesota lakes because they are scenic and quiet compared with the percentage of Minnesotans who choose to visit lakes in the rest of the state because they are scenic and quiet.

Northeastern Minnesota residents seem to have a more positive feeling about lakes in their region than do residents of the rest of the state. This may be because lakes in the northeast region tend to have less development and more public land surrounding them, giving residents a more positive outlook for the future.

Differences also exist in why people visit northeastern Minnesota lakes compared to lakes in the rest of the state. Seventy-one percent of respondents visit northeastern lakes for their scenery, and 64 percent visit because they are quiet. The percentages are lower for lakes in the rest of the state, with 53 percent of respondents visiting for the scenery and 43 percent for the quiet.

These differences are revealing - they may have implications for the resort industry and also may affect the future management of lakes depending upon where they are located in the state.

The survey also asked people whether they supported or opposed a list of possible solutions to problems on the lake that they use most. People were more supportive of voluntary and educational approaches rather than regulatory solutions. However, people were quite supportive of stricter septic system regulations to improve water quality, i.e., 68 percent supported stricter septic system regulations compared with only 6 percent opposing such a solution.

Information from the survey will be used to gauge support for things such as educational programs, financial incentives for proper lakeshore management, or modification of current lakeshore regulations.

This is a small fraction of the data that are available through the survey. For a full report, contact Minnesota Sea Grant at 218.726.6191 or get a PDF version of the report from our 1998 Minnesota Lakes Survey web page.

By Keith Anderson
December 1998

Return to December 1998 Seiche

This page last modified on March 01, 2018     © 1996 – 2019 Regents of the University of Minnesota     The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
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