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Area state parks: open … but not

Anyone wishing to visit area state parks still can, but they have to hike in, and rentals and amenities won’t be available

July 1, 2011
By Per Peterson and Steve Browne , Marshall Independent

Camden State Park closed down on Thursday in anticipation of a state government shutdown, but will still be available for day use this Fourth of July weekend.

Park Ranger Lyn Christoffer said park personnel removed all rental boats from Lake Brawner, and campers had to be out of the park by 4 p.m. though the park remained open for day use until 9 p.m.

"At this point we're waiting to see if they arrive at a budget or not," Camden State Park Manager Bill Dinesen said Thursday afternoon. "If they arrive at a budget I'll start calling staffers back and start opening as soon as we can."

Article Photos

Photo by Steve Browne
The Camden State Park office closed Thursday because of the state government shutdown, meaning park staff loaded up things like park canoes.

Dinesen said even if the Legislature does not arrive at a budget, they might still pass a "lights on" bill temporarily funding certain aspects of state government.

"This is uncharted territory for us," Dinesen said. "In the 110-year history of the state park system this would be the first time they closed."

If the shutdown continues throughout the weekend, day use will be permitted until 9 p.m. but law enforcement personnel will enforce closing hour.

"Day use is OK, but you can't rent anything and you'll have to hike in," Dinesen said.

In the event the Legislature agrees on a budget, or a "lights on" bill, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website will display the status of state parks: red for closed, yellow for partially open, and green for open and ready for use.

Staff at Lake Shetek State Park in Murray County has spent an ample amount of time prepping for the unveiling of the new Sunrise Campground site, which was quickly booked solid with reservations and was set to open today.

"We've spent, in part, a couple of years planning for this new development we're doing here," Lake Shetek State Park Manager Kerry Christoffer said Thursday. "We were supposed to open up the new campground, so it's really disappointing. The staff has worked hard to get this open. It's kind of like having your left foot on the brake as hard as you can and your right foot on the gas trying to get ready."

While the grounds at Shetek will be open during the day like at Camden, Kristoffer strongly advises against people using them, mostly because of safety concerns.

"There are barricades in place, the gates are locked and will remain locked," he said. "The facilities are shut down. My biggest concern is public safety. There are a thousand different emergencies that can occur, so that would be a big concern of mine."

Kristoffer said he's disappointed for his staff, but for the public as well who planned on using state parks during the Fourth of July weekend.

"I feel sorry for the people who travel all over to go to the parks," he said. "We've spent the last several days planning and preparing for the shutdown, but you have to remember, I've been here for 36-plus years and we've never done this before."



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