Minnesota Parks Closing Looms
If Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican-controlled Legislature can't resolve their budget impasse, it will force the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on Thursday (July 1) to shutter its 74 state parks and recreation areas, along with 58 state forest campgrounds and day-use areas.
Arriving on the cusp of the Fourth of July weekend, when many state parks are filled, a shutdown could affect as many as 90,000 state park campers and visitors daily, with revenue losses to the DNR on the busiest days of the holiday weekend nearing $200,000, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
Should a shutdown last a month, the DNR money pinch would be more severe still. More than $4 million was collected by state parks in July last year, about a third of its total annual receipts.
Closing Minnesota's state parks, many of which are open year-round, would be unprecedented. But the DNR will have no choice but to ask campers to pull up stakes on Thursday at 4 p.m., absent a budget pact.
"I'm not exactly sure how that would work," said Audrey Butts, DNR manager of Gooseberry Falls State Park, the first state park north of Duluth on Hwy. 61. "We're open 365 days a year, so it's not something we've done before."
Already the DNR has told state park users that beginning Monday, campers with reservations between June 30 and July 14 can receive full deposit refunds if they're worried a budget agreement won't be reached.
The refund request and park reservation phone number is (866) 857-2757.)