Which state parks should close? (5×8 – 3/30/11)

Pick a park, vulnerability and joy, reporters standing in water, are WWII aircraft leaving Minnesota, and March sadness.


Proposed cuts to child protection didn’t get too many Minnesotans worked up in this legislative session, a possible curtailing of Meals on Wheels for seniors hasn’t caused much of a public outcry, the effort to end of programs to keep some elderly people out of nursing homes went largely unnoticed, few seem particularly worried about reducing help for the disabled, and even the rolling back of higher education in the state hasn’t generated a lot of heat outside of the occasional student protest.

But Minnesota state parks? This, judging by the front pages and Web sites, might be the one that provides the public-opinion referendum on how the Legislature is doing. If memory serves, nobody running for office last summer had a stump speech with the applause line, “elect me and I’ll make sure you can’t go camping!” But what if they had?

A 25% whack from the proposed natural resources budget could lead to the closing of 10 state parks, according to DNR officials after yesterday’s passage of funding bills in the Minnesota House and Senate. Which ones, they didn’t say. Republicans say the DNR is using scare tactics.

Let’s assume the plan will close 10. Which 10? You decide. Here are the state parks (click image for larger image):


Unless the DNR tries to make the cuts obvious, we can assume Split Rock Lighthouse, Fort Snelling and Gooseberry Falls are safe; they’re iconic. Pick 10 we can live without.

How many times a year do you visit a Minnesota state park?online survey


Let’s recalibrate for a moment. I’ll bet Jennifer Haugh, a former colleague (she was the MPR spokesperson), speaks for thousands of people in describing what it was like to lose a job and embark on a new life. Yesterday, she spoke at morning prayers at Harvard, on the authenticity of being vulnerable, and the source of joy. You’d never guess she’s a native Minnesotan.


Today’s submission: (h/t: David Gillette)


Patrick Steele reminds us of this oldie but goodie:

On the flood front, the Mississippi River in St. Paul is cresting over the next few hours. So is the Minnesota River at Savage (it’s dropping at Jordan). In Fargo, some residents are upset because there’s an evacuation plan for moving residents if the Red River flooding gets too serious, but officials won’t say what it is.

That’s led to an editorial today in the Fargo Forum:

The handling of this year’s evacuation plan has been clumsy, to say the least. Early media requests to see the document were met with the claim that there was no plan. But then, miraculously, there was a plan. But it was confidential. The 2011 plan apparently details how an evacuation would be undertaken – including travel routes, staging locations and responsibility for executing the plan’s components.

In other words, the document that did not exist and then did is composed of exactly the kind of information residents would need if the flood is severe enough to warrant evacuation. It makes no sense to classify information that would be vital to residents who might want to develop family or individual evacuation plans to dovetail with the city’s procedures.


Times are a changing when “Moonlight Serenade” makes the neighbors complain. The Pioneer Press reports the days of a World War II collection 0f airplanes at Fleming Field in South St. Paul could be numbered. A couple times a year, the Commemorative Air Force holds ’40s-themed dances in its large hangar on the field. But the city says the lack of sprinklers puts an end to that, even though the huge hangar is wide open during the dances.


And the airport manager says some neighbors complain about the noise anyway.

Here’s an extensive piece on the place from colleague Julia Schrenkler, posted here last summer.


Sometimes you have to take a stand– or seat — for what you believe in. In Delaware, a neighborhood believes in having basketball hoops.


A sad reminder that the most dangerous and vicious animal in the world, is often a teenage human.


Twin Cities home prices fell 3.4 percent from December to January. The decline was the worst reported among 20 major metropolitan areas. What would you be doing differently if the housing market were better?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: The savings and hardship of Medicare reform.

Second hour: Abu Ghraib prison photos depicted the the embarrassing treatment of suspected terrorists who were alive. Now, gruesome images of dead civilians, some pictured as prized mementos, are another tarnish for the U.S. military. Hear how photos of The Kill Team made their way to Rolling Stone magazine.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Former State Department and USAID official Brian Atwood discusses the Obama Doctrine and U.S. influence in the world.

Second hour: Rebroadcast of a conversation between 1984 presidential candidate Walter Mondale and his running mate Geraldine Ferraro, in an event moderated by former Minnesota secretary of state Joan Growe

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Weekly politics talk.

Second hour: The Palestinian standoff.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – – In an impoverished patch of south Minneapolis, where the nation’s largest Somali community abuts one of the most dense urban concentrations of Native Americans, efforts are under way to smooth over frictions between the two communities. A friendship circle of Somali and American Indians started about a year ago when a Native woman was attacked by a Somali youth. Tensions were further inflamed last winter when a Native pedestrian was struck and killed by a Somali driver. At monthly meetings, individuals from the two ethnic groups confess to their own stereotypes and plot ways to bring the communities together. MPR’s Laura Yuen will have the story.

Lac qui Parle is the healthiest county in Minnesota, while Cass County is the least healthy according to new study. In fact, most of the least-healthy counties in Minnesota are in the north, while the healthiest are in the southern counties. MPR’s Lorna Benson will explain why.

Damage from Japan’s natural disasters and nuclear crisis is expected to cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars. Even before the disaster the country was deeply in debt. So what are the prospects for an economic comeback in Japan? NPR will report.

  • I love to take pictures in our state parks, as you well know. Closing 10 of them…I would have to think long and hard.

    I can better list ones that “Touch this one and I will get really angry” but I don’t want any of them to close. I haven’t seen them all yet.

  • Matt W

    Wait, I’m confused. Didn’t we just pass an constitutional amendment a couple of years ago whose sole purpose was to provide funding for the DNR and its park system?

  • Bob Moffitt

    Simple. I would select to close the state parks in or near the legislative districts of the House and Senate leadership who voted to cut the funding. If signed into law by Governor Dayton, I would close both Gooseberry AND Split Rock Lighthouse.

    Furthermore, all state parks must errect 15 x 15 sign at each entrance to the park reading “CLOSED BY ORDER OF GOV> MARK DAYTON AND THE MINNESOTA LEGISLATURE.”

    That’s what I would do.

  • Bob Collins

    //n constitutional amendment

    That’s a whole ‘nother angle on this legislative session, matt. The outdoors amendment — the Legacy amendment — was designed so that it would SUPPLEMENT legislative funding, not serve as a reason to subsequently lower the general fund appropriation and then replace it with the sales tax money.

    But on several fronts, the effort at the legislature this year has been to sweep that money into the budget and reduce accordingly.

    It’s one of the reasons budgeting via the Minnesota constitution may not be such a hot idea since it doesn’t work.

  • Jeremy Carr

    My wife & made it to 26 or so of the 72 MN State Parks last summer. I can say that while most are gems there are easily ten that could be closed with little impact on campers or visitors. Some are so small, so sparsely visited or so historically or environmentally insignificant that you wonder why they’re parks any way. Furthermore, even with their current budget the park personnel were spread very thin and very unevenly. Rightfully Itasca was well stocked with workers but Blue Mounds had limited staff, Upper Sioux Agency had exactly 1 person & Lindberg had nobody. Incidentally, Lindberg is one of the ten you could easily close for all of the reasons I listed above. Then there are fabulous little parks like Crow Wing which is a wonderful place for a picnic and hiking. It would be a shame if it or others like it closed.

    If parks were to close I would not want to see the land sold for development though. The state should maintain ownership & close the land off.

  • Jeremy Carr

    To be clear I don’t want any of the parks to close. If push came to shove I think you could close some though.

  • John O.

    My recollection of the last time the State of Minnesota went through the gyrations of a partial state shutdown on July 1 due to no budget, all sides got an earful. The prospect of closed state parks on July 4 was not popular. They went back and got the work done.

    Very few are going to be fully satisfied with whatever state budget is finally agreed upon this year. However, if it takes the threat of closing state parks to get the electorate riled up and makes the politicians (again) finally get serious about getting their work done, I’m all for it.

    As for Mr. Moffitt’s proposed sign, I would think that the tourism folks in our bordering states would be all too happy to pay for those signs.

  • Bob Collins

    //The state should maintain ownership & close the land off

    Couldn’t they just move the DNR people out and just keep the park technically open, letting people come and go as they see fit? Sure, there’d be some vandalism, but do these facilities really NEED someone there?

  • Jon

    Nerstrand Big woods.

    IT’s small, it’s infested with rodents, sure it has a small waterfall in it for scenery, though it appears the only hiking paths that get used there are the ones going to and from the water fall (at least from my experience last year)

    The rest of the hiking trails seemed extremely sparse, the people who were camping there seemed to be more interested in watching TV in their campers… over all it could be replaced with a KOA and I don’t think any one would notice the change…

    I agree with the earlier comment, the land should be kept not sold off… perhaps instead of closing them, we should plan to make it a temporary situation… mothball the park until the budget improves (not that any one will ever want to spend more money.)

  • Jeremy Carr


    I would think there would be significant liability issues with having unstaffed campgrounds and camping facilities just open to the public. Not to mention risk of forest fires and the spread of invasive species like the Emerald Ash Borer on unregulated firewood and Eurasian Watermilfoil on boat propellers.

  • Jeremy Carr


    Also the parks represent a significant investment by the people of MN over several generations. Our state park system has been a model for other states. It would be a shame to see them destroyed by vandals or turned into hideouts for mobile meth labs. It would be much better to just shut the gates and have the DNR “maintain” them as protected land rather than staff them as parks. I’d rather see the building and facilities return to nature than have them destroyed by idiots.

  • Matt

    I am not sure I understand how a state park can be “closed”. I know it takes a lot of maintance to keep the facilities clean at some of the more popular state parks but I’m fairly certain that those would not be the ones they close. Instead they would close the smaller less popular ones.

    For these less popular ones would they then lay off the 2-5 people who work there? If it is really closed wouldn’t they need at least 2 people to sit around there and tell people it’s closed? Why not just change them into State Forests where there are less facilities to maintain?

    If they are just going to close the bathrooms and remove the trash cans that doesn’t really close the state park, it just makes it less convenient to visit.

  • Alison

    I’m with you Bob Moffitt, Goosberry & Split Rock. And make sure to add this to the sign at the front gate: “But at least you have a pocket full of extra money that you can spend elsewhere or use to ‘create jobs’. I’m sure you’ll agree this disinvestment in our DNR is worth it.”

  • Bob Collins

    //I would close both Gooseberry AND Split Rock Lighthouse

    This would be the state park version of the “Pothole Principle,” right?

    That’s where citiesintentionally let potholes get bigger and bigger so that motorists get madder and madder, until they get to the point where they’ll pay anything to get them fixed.

    Not that anyone around here is doing that, of course.

  • Jeremy Carr

    Heck some of the potholes around here are big enough to be classified as parks.

  • Tyler

    It’s one of the reasons budgeting via the Minnesota constitution may not be such a hot idea since it doesn’t work.

    And it completely mystifies (and infuriates) me as to why people vote for these amendments in the first place. Sure, it SOUNDS nice, but think it through!

  • Matt

    //Heck some of the potholes around here are big enough to be classified as parks.

    I believe you’re thinking of Interstate State Park. From the DNR website:

    “During the summer, hike the trails and explore the glacial potholes that make this park unique. ” 😀

  • Alison

    \\This would be the state park version of the “Pothole Principle,” right?

    Yep. It seems that so many candisates and voters in recent history approach elections purely on ideological grounds without thinking through the practical considerations. All government spending is waste, except this one thing that I want.

  • catherine

    That poor girl broke my heart.

    We should all be ashamed of ourselves that bullying is allowed to go on in the schools.

  • Peeping John

    Yah, screw ’em all who needs State Parks when you got those nifty voyeur cams planted all over the place. A fella can go campin’ right from his big easy chair in his very own living room.

  • Peeping John

    Yah, screw ’em all who needs State Parks when you got those nifty voyeur cams planted all over the place. A fella can go campin’ right from his big easy chair in his very own living room.

  • Arid Loon

    As I recall, wasn’t the whole point of voluntarily raising taxes (by the vote of tax payers) and dedicating it to the Legacy areas done out of recognition that the efforts to protect our natural resources have been underfunded, which in turn has jeopardized the quality and longevity of the few remaining natural places we have in the state? It seems very out of touch of the notion of who Minnesotans really are for legislators to then actively seek to undermine the citizens’ efforts.

    Then again, I listened to a bit of the House debate yesterday. I am not so sure that the Republicans aren’t just bad at math.

  • CHS

    Regarding the Legacy amendment: I would be shocked if a lawsuit doesn’t follow this budget. The groups that pushed for the amendment will push to see the money appropriated appropriately. If the legislature ignores the law, you can bet it will be challenged in court.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Bob –

    Your poignant, ironic comments about the relative public silence regarding cutting funds for abused children, the elderly, etc. vs the outrage about closing state parks made me cry, and think.

    Perhaps the parks are prioritized because they serve as a beautiful place for us to escape the ugly reality of our sense of frustration and sadness with what we are becoming as a society.

  • LH

    Shame on anyone who voted for the park killing GOPs. Look what you’re doing to the state.

  • boB from WA

    OK Bob, I’m now depressed. w/the exception of the reporter in h2o, all of your stories have to do w/loss. What is frustrating, is that whatever powers to be seem to run roughshod over decency, compassion, and basic human dignity. Where to start? sigh…

  • Bob Collins

    That’s an interesting perspective, boB. In many ways we’re in sandbagging times. We’re trying to build dikes around that which we value, while exposing that which we don’t to the harsh realities of troubled waters.

    In the end, though, we have to identify what we value. What do we want to be five years from now? What do we stand for?

    We hear about priorities all the time in the most vague of terms, but we never really have a discussion — an intelligent discussion — of exactly what the picture looks like.

    The truth is: We can’t do everything and we can’t do nothing. Somewhere in between, we need to have the discussion of where and what we can do.

  • Matt W

    Ahh, I see. The old ‘the laws on the books, but let’s see them enforce it’ kind of thing. Sneaky.

    I have to admit, though, it is interesting to watch. All this rushing around to save money so that we can create jobs seems to be destroying all the reasons you’d want a job in the first place. I mean what’s the incentive to work here if when you get off work everything fun you want to do has been shut down or out-lawed?

  • kennedy

    Over the past 10 years, at least five new state parks have been created. Maybe funding cuts should first apply to new park creation. This may free up money to maintain current parks.

    New parks include Lake Vermillion, Red River, Cuyuna County, Green Leaf Lake and Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Bob- Re: “In many ways we’re in sandbagging times. We’re trying to build dikes around that which we value, while exposing that which we don’t to the harsh realities of troubled waters.”

    Nice flood metaphors.

    Here’s my favorite: “Apres moi, le deluge.”

    Oops. Sorry, I forgot. For better and worse, we live in a democracy. 🙂

  • Suzanne

    Re: State park closings

    I’ve never used a Minnesota State Park, but I use the St. Paul and Minneapolis parks almost every day. With such great metropolitan parks, keep the out-state ones and cut ones closer to the cities. We already have wonderful parks here.

  • Ben Chorn

    closing state parks?

    The only one I would ever consider closing that I have been to would be Rice Lake on the grounds that when I went there was a biting fly hatch that ruined the entire trip. However they do have a rare niche of sandhill cranes which might cause a stir.

    I dont understand why we dont do something with the MN Lottery? Is it not the lottery that brings in a lot of funds for parks/outdoors???

  • David Bissen

    Last year we had a hard time getting into parks, drive north shore there all full , every week-end . No reservation no drive up to camp . We love to hit three to five campgrounds in the two week trip . But there so full , We can’t make that trip ,” any more” . “FULL” “FULL “. It really is to bad we have so much fun , going from park to park …The reservation way 2 years out bookings . Don’t help trying to make any reservation now ..That is what hurt’s the camper’s now , you go there and they say it’s , full ,nobody show’s up .ALL WEEKEND . MISSED ALL THE FUN OF A PARK,” HAS TO OFFER” ..We have fun even when it’s raining , that’s camping ..Plan ahead , WEATHER you watch it all the time .Have fun , You only have once to enjoy your trip’s into nature.. Pretty soon you wont be able to enjoy it ..Take it one day at a time , moment by second .NATURE , the thing’s you see is breath taking . But you have to be there to enjoy everything the world has to offer us all . We”ve traveled around the world , Nothing is better than at home in minnesota . The other countries , is scary at time’s , But you go with the good & bad , HAVE FUN MINNESOTA & THE HOLE US OF A . IS STILL THE BEST PLACE TO LIVE . You feel save here .

    HAVE A NICE TIME *****