November 22, 2017

State Parks and the Minnesota Government Shutdown

“In Minnesota the gridlock caused by the Republican legislature and Governor Mark Dayton’s failure to cut a budget deal that resulted in government shutdown, is now in its second week. The weekend of July 4th was a horrible time to close the state parks and campgrounds. It’s summertime and Minnesota’s state parks are unavailable to the public. This has put a dampener on many outdoor activities such as: camping, boating, fishing and hiking that Minnesota residents enjoy during their vacations.

Afton State Park is a short drive from the state capital of St. Paul. It is a beautiful park where people love to hike and enjoy the scenery along the St. Croix River but access to the park has been cut off for the average citizen. Hiker Kevin Schulz took a hike through the park, and while he never saw another soul, he did see signs of vandalism.

Washington County Sheriff Bill Hutton and his deputies recently arrested over 12 people who broke into the park’s offices. The vandals ruined trails and caused thousands of dollars in damages to the park offices and equipment. Other state parks have experienced similar vandalism. Hutton doesn’t think that the crimes would have occurred if the parks had stayed open.

The state is also losing revenue from things like fishing licenses and park entry fees.

The government isn’t the only ones losing revenue. Local merchants and businesses that rely on the tourist season when the parks have visitors are also losing business and revenue. The only businesses that are actually seeing a rise in visitors are privately owned resorts and campgrounds which are taking up some of the slack caused by the parks closures.

Tracy Larsen who often fishes in the St. Croix calls the shutdown a fiasco and blames both republicans and democrats for the closure of the state parks. He is outraged that people cannot enjoy the beauty of the parks because of the legislature’s inability to balance a budget.

Young and old alike are disturbed by the fact that they cannot enjoy the parks in the area due to the shutdown. Most people hope that the government comes to some sort of agreement before the summer months are over and they can get back to the recreational activities that they enjoy in Minnesota’s state parks.”

More information:

In Minn. Government Shutdown, State Parks Suffer

Minnesota State Parks: Closed!

Minnesota braces for shutdown over budget impasse

Minnesota Forum: Budgetary state park closures 7/1?

Minnesota Shutdown Hurts State Parks

“With the prolonged government shutdown in Minnesota, state parks are one casualty, David Schaper reported on the NPR website July 8.

A budget battle between Democratic Governor Mark Dayton and Republicans in the state Senate forced a court ordered shutdown of non-critical state services July 1, the second state government shutdown in the Minnesota in the last six years. Among state services that have felt the blow include workers overseeing gaming operations, approximately 100 state construction projects as well as Minnesota’s state parks.

Afton State Park, a half hour drive from capital St. Paul, is locked up Schaper reports. This is during the peak season for camping permits, fishing licenses, concession sales and trail fees. With July the busiest month of the year for state parks, Minnesota is losing $1 million a week in revenues.

Although there are other states facing contentious budget battles across the country, Minnesota is the only state currently shut down. Governor Dayton and Republican leaders have been unable to close a $1.4 billion gap between their budget proposals and no talks are currently scheduled to settle the impasse.

Beyond the lost revenue to Minnesota’s parks, vandalism is a concern. In Afton, Washington County Sheriff Bill Hutton arrested over twelve people for destruction of property and burglary for damage done to the park’s cabins and natural areas.

Tracy Larsen and J.R. Lerner had planned to go fishing at Afton on Larsen’s bass boat before they discovered it was closed, Shaper reported. They said they would try to find another private boat landing but it was disappointing to find the state park closed considering the state-run parks have the best facilities.

Lerner said he blamed both political parties for the budget mess. “”It’s awfully silly that a bunch of [grown-ups] — who were elected by the state to do that — can’t get it done. I mean, that’s their job. They’re professionals.”"”

NPR.org

Minnesota shutdown longest in recent history, no new talks – Reuters

The Cost of Minnesota’s Shutdown: A Warning to Washington – Time Magazine

Lottery dollars pour into Wisconsin during Minnesota government shutdown – KARE 11

Minnesota shutdown threatens insurance regulators, could put consumers at risk – Life Insurance News