Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota state parks’

PINE CITY, Minn (Reuters) – With campers being turned away from Minnesota’s state parks, private campgrounds and resorts are showing slight benefits in the wake of the state’s government shutdown.

“It isn’t hurting. It’s been helping us a little bit,” said Carol Nelson, a co-owner of the 125-site Vagabond Village Campground near Itasca State Park, home of the Mississippi River’s headwaters.

“Hopefully it will help other private campgrounds pay their bills.”

As Minnesota’s budget impasse reaches a week, state parks and other services deemed non-essential have been shuttered while politicians try to bridge a $1.4 billion budget gap.

At Itasca State Park, that means 237 campsites and 53 cabins have been vacant since July 1.

The state parks lose an estimated $1 million a week in revenue from summer visitors with the shutdown, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

The campers slated to stay at Itasca and the other state parks with campsites have had to scrap plans, wait or find scarce alternatives at some already popular private campsites.

More campers have called Vagabond about vacancies, but most have taken a wait-and-see approach to their upcoming camping trip to northern Minnesota and haven’t booked in droves, Nelson said.

Privately owned Camp Itasca, less than a mile from the state park, receives overflow referrals when the state park is operating. Since the shutdown, Camp Itasca has maintained the status quo.

“They will make reservations with us and cancel with them,” Camp Itasca co-owner Craig Burslie said.

On the holiday weekend, Camp Itasca filled 40 of its 50 campsites, which is at its 5-year average, Burslie said.

While the shutdown might bring some customers to private campsites, it might also be keeping others away.

Burslie said an Illinois man called Wednesday to talk about a possible road trip to Minnesota, but the shutdown gave him second thoughts.

County-owned Long Lake Park and Campground, five miles from Itasca, has fielded about 100 calls in the last 10 days, but they are already booked most weekends, manager Ann Person said. The only impact would be if the campers came during the less-busy weeknights.

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All of Minnesota’s 74 state parks and recreation areas were closing as of 4 p.m. Thursday because of a budget impasse and state government shutdown.

Campers across the state faced the dilemma Thursday afternoon as negotiations between legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton continued with no budget deal made.

Many people who had planned to camp at state parks in the area are now looking to U.S. Forest Service campgrounds, private campgrounds or Wisconsin campgrounds.

The Forest Service is gearing up for an expected increase in demand at their campgrounds, especially on the North Shore, said Steve Schug, assistant ranger for recreation and wilderness at Tofte and Grand Marais.

“We kind of figured it would impact our Forest Service offices big time,” Schug said Thursday.

The agency will keep in close contact with its campground concessionaires to keep tabs on campsite availability, he said.
“The last thing we want to do is send a forest visitor 50 miles up a gravel road to a campground that’s already full,” he said.
Pattison State Park in Wisconsin has received many inquiries from would-be Minnesota campers, said Nicole Farmakes, visitor service representative at the park.

“But we’ve been booked since May, so we can’t help those people,” she said.

The state parks and recreation areas are prepared to re-open as quickly as possible if a budget deal is reached, said Chris Niskanen, DNR director of communications.

“It might be simple, or it may be more difficult, depending on the park,” Niskanen said late Thursday afternoon. “We have a contingency plan for reopening the parks. We’ll have to turn on the water, turn on the electricity. … This is not a latch-key operation. These are complex facilities.”

Although the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources closed down most of its website Thursday afternoon because of the state government shutdown, one page will remain available, said Chris Niskanen, DNR director of communications. That page of Frequently Asked Questions will include the latest information on what DNR operations will remain in service during a shutdown. To reach that page, go to www.mndnr.gov. The page will offer no links to other parts of the DNR’s website.

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