Most Minnesota State Parks Back in Business
Most Minnesota state parks will be open for day use and some for overnight camping today (July 22), according to state officials, who said restart operations were on or ahead of schedule Thursday.
Twincities.com reported that a number of parks, including Itasca, Interstate and Wild River, opened Thursday, and overnight campers were allowed into William O’Brien.
Most overnight campgrounds should be open tonight on a first-come, first-served basis while the state processes a backlog of about 10,000 canceled reservations – amounting to $150,000 in refunds – incurred during the three-week state government shutdown.
A number of campgrounds are expected to open later, including St. Croix State Park, which suffered extensive damage from a July 1 storm officials are calling “the St. Croix Blowdown.”
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has set up a web page for monitoring the status of parks, forests and trails: MNDNR.gov/reopen.
“It’s a great relief for us to be back in business,” said Courtland Nelson, director of parks. Nelson asked for patience from the public for parks that remain closed. From clearing downed timber to ensuring water and sewage systems work, some parks will need more time than others, he said.
DNR officials haven’t tallied all the lost revenue from camping, concessions and license and permit fees, but Commissioner Tom Landwehr said the total could exceed $6 million. Landwehr, like other state department heads, said it was too early to calculate whether savings from wages of laid-off workers outpaced lost revenue. In a normal July, the parks system would bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars more than it costs to operate it each week, Nelson said.
The state’s electronic system to purchase fishing and hunting licenses and ATV and boat registration permits was running Thursday, as well. Officials said the system logged 3,760 transactions Wednesday, mostly from fishing-license sales.