Minnesota Shutdown: Campgrounds Close Up, Campers Pack Up
Some of the best summer memories kids have are currently being impacted by the shutdown.
Two little girls wore sad faces this afternoon at the Jay Cooke State Park campground near Duluth.
Little Katie Wigen, 4, and her sister, Kasi, 5, couldn’t figure out why their family had to leave its campsite sooner than they had planned.
All of Minnesota’s 74 state parks and recreation areas were closing as of 4 p.m. because of a budget impasse and an impending state government shutdown.
“Why do we have to go?” Katie, clutching a red stuffed animal, asked Jay Cooke State Park manager Eunice Luedtke.
“We have to close,” Luedtke explained as gently as she could. “The park is out of money.”
“I can give you money,” Katie told Luedtke. “I have lots of money.”
So, while Katie and Kasi played in the car, Jon Wigen and daughter Krista, 13, of Minneapolis took down the family’s tent.
“We’re trying to explain to our kids that we’re still on vacation. We’ll find another place,” said Tracy Wigen, Jon’s wife.
Campers across the state faced the same dilemma as negotiations between legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton continued with no budget deal made.
“We’re kind of bummed, actually,” said Traci Veek of Elk River, Minn., as she prepared to leave another Jay Cooke campsite. “Like, c’mon, just one more day. Our families go camping every year to a different state park, and this year we picked Jay Cooke.”
But Veek and her camping crew had heard about the potential state government shutdown and knew they might have to leave early. Most campers at Jay Cooke seemed resigned to the shutdown and didn’t blame Luedtke as she made her rounds, notifying all campers of the closure. By early afternoon, many of the park’s campsites already were empty.
Eighteen camping groups had to cut short their stays at Jay Cooke, Luedtke said, and many others who had reservations for July 1 and beyond were told not to show up. The park has 82 campsites.
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.
“Instead of going to Jay Cooke (State Park) or up the North Shore, people are making reservations here,” said Barbara Higton, owner of the Cloquet/Duluth KOA in Cloquet. “We’ve gotten those calls in the past two or three weeks. We’re basically full now.”
The campground has 60 RV and tent sites, she said.
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.
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.