MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Anyone who has sat in traffic on I-94 headed north on a Friday knows that Minnesota’s cabin culture is the real deal. But how many Minnesotans actually own cabins?

It’s a difficult question to answer. According to data from the Minnesota Department of Revenue, about 122,000 properties have ID numbers assigned to “seasonal/recreational properties.”

Jeff Forester, president of the Minnesota Seasonal Recreational Property Owners Coalition, breaks down the various types of properties.

“The majority are hunting shacks or cabins. For instance, the Legislative Districts with the most cabin owners living in them are up north around Virginia, International Falls. These are folks who have a house in town and cabin out in the woods,” said Forester.

But not all of those 122,000 properties are owned by Minnesotans. According to Forester, about 21 percent are owned by non-residents.

Of course, there are a number of Minnesotans with properties in Wisconsin, Iowa or the Dakotas.

And that 122,000 property owners-number vastly underestimates the number of people who claim ownership of a cabin.

Mark Johnson, editor of Cabin Life Magazine, says we’re all connected to a cabin somehow.

“If you don’t have one you have one in the family, you have a friend who has one. [Cabin culture] may be beyond the American DNA, it’s in our DNA as humans,” said Johnson.

Early Minnesota cabin culture wasn’t about driving hours to the cabin, it was about going to White Bear Lake or Lake Minnetonka.

The Thompson cottage on Minnetonka was completed in 1887, just 30 years after Minnesota became a state.

Photographer Doug Ohman took a look at 90 different cabins from around the state in his book “Cabins in Minnesota.” He says that the cabin commute was largely traffic-free.

“The railroad or the trolley car took them out there back in the day,” said Ohman.

At first, cabins were just for wealthy people to escape the pollution and heat of the city during the summer.

“The advent of the automobile opened it up for all of us; rich or poor or in between,” he said.

Today, the Minnesota Seasonal Property Owners Coalition says the average cabin owner is 62 years old, the average household income is $58,000, and the average Minnesota cabin has been in the family for 25 years.

“This is something you want to hang on forever and pass on to your kids, your grandkids,” said Johnson.

So take 122 thousand cabin owners, add the kids, grandkids and cousins: Forester from the owners group says you could easily have one million Minnesotans claiming a piece of a cabin.

“The cabin isn’t about the structure, it’s about the experience. That is part of our DNA in Minnesota. We have to get away,” said Ohman.

Jason DeRusha

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