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State parks now offer virtual tours

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For anyone wondering what there is to see or do at Minnesota state parks once you get there, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is adding virtual tours to its Web site.

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Virtual tours of Itasca, Jay Cooke, Minneopa and Soudan Underground Mine state parks were created this summer as a pilot project. They can be viewed by clicking the virtual tours link at http://www.mnstateparks.info/.

The pilot project resulted from research showing the "Next Generation" would find virtual tours helpful for trip planning. The Soudan Underground Mine virtual tour is a YouTube-style video. The other three feature panoramic photos. All four virtual tours include an accessible version for Web site visitors with visual disabilities or low-speed Internet connections.

The DNR is seeking feedback about the first four virtual tours, including what style of virtual tour is most popular. Based on the comments and suggestions received from a brief online survey at the above Web site, the DNR will create additional virtual tours over the next couple of years. Dozens of Minnesota state parks, state recreation areas and state trails are expected to be featured in virtual tours by 2010.

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