By Anna Jauhola
A limited number of developed state park campgrounds are set to open on June 1.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is working with state park managers to create a reopening plan.
“It really depends on how much staff we can get back, because we’ve had to recall seasonal staff,” said Kim Pleticha, assistant communications director for the DNR’s office of communication and outreach. “We are in the thick of it right now trying to determine what they’re doing.”
The state parks system will phase its reopening, starting with 20 campgrounds across the state opening up to campers on June 1. As of Monday afternoon, there was no detailed list on which campgrounds those might be. This is all being done according to Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order 20-56, which he proclaimed on Wednesday, May 13.
No matter which campgrounds open, the DNR knows they will offer only limited services, such as water systems, grounds maintenance and vault toilets. However, showers may not be available and ranger stations will probably remain closed.
The second phase of reopening campgrounds will start June 8. Pleticha said they will open more complex campgrounds with limited services and hope to have all remote campsites open at that point as well. They hope to have ranger stations open again and limited small group facility rentals.
By June 15, the DNR plans to have the remaining complex campgrounds open, along with fish cleaning buildings and other facilities.
“I want to be cautious here. This is a phased opening and we’re really trying hard to shoot for this,” Pleticha said. “But we’ll see how things go as we continue opening.”
Since Walz put restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, state parks have remained open for day use and outdoor recreation. A couple of weeks ago, the DNR received the go-ahead to open remote campsites at state parks, including the ones at Lake Bronson State Park. Pleticha said, however, those sites were all reserved and campers should keep that in mind.
Every campsite at state parks throughout the state must be reserved before camping. That can be done on the DNR website, dnr.state.mn.us. According to the website, Lake Bronson State Park isn’t taking reservations for the month of June – but Pleticha said they’re working to get the campsite reservation system open as campgrounds open.
Despite camping being out of the picture, for now, people are encouraged to continue visiting state parks while observing social distancing. You can still take your boat out on Lake Bronson, for example, but want to limit the people on board to family.
Pleticha said most state park developed campgrounds do not pose a problem to social distancing guidelines. Most campsites are spaced far enough apart and have good vegetation.
“But, and this is a big but, this is what the phased reopening is all about,” she said. “It’s about us assessing this so we’re able to open things in accordance with the governor’s plan. So, we’re continuing to assess right now how some of that is going to work.”
In the meantime, she hopes the public continues to visit parks and recreates in the great outdoors safely.
“We love our state parks, we love camping, we love being outdoors,” Pleticha said. “Everybody wants to get back out and camping, and we’re right there with you. We’re trying to do this as quickly and safely as possible in accordance with the new executive order.”
By Anna Jauhola