State officials reviewing national park options

Minnesota’s only national park could be reopened during the lingering federal government shutdown, if the state agrees to pay the bill.

State officials are trying to determine how much it would cost to reopen Voyageurs National Park and where they would get the money. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is conducting the feasibility study. DNR Communications Director Chris Niskanen said they will also look at other federal facilities, including the Pipestone National Monument, Grand Portage National Monument, the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area and the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.

“We’d have to take a real hard look at what would be the value and efficiencies around opening something like that, especially on a very short notice and maybe for only a short period of time,” Niskanen said. “We’re in fall, and some of these places may be closing soon.”

An offer this week from the Obama administration allows states to pay to reopen national parks shuttered by the federal government shutdown. Utah was the first state to agree.

Niskanen said there is no timetable for a decision and no funding has been identified. He also said the assessment is already facing challenges.

“During the shutdown, doing something as simple as just getting a hold of a federal employee who has the budget for these facilities is difficult,” he said.