State parks in northwest Minnesota stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars this Fourth of July weekend as a result of a state budget dispute that could shut down governmental offices Friday (July 1), according to a report in the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald.
The partial suspension of government services stems from a disagreement between Republicans and Democrats on state budget issues. The legislature has until midnight Thursday to finish a two-year state budget.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty is working with state legislators to reach an agreement before it paralyzes crucial organs of the government body such as departments of Transportation, Human Services and Natural Resources (DNR), state officials said.
If they miss the deadline, parts of government – including state parks and highway rest areas – would close Friday. Almost 16,000 state workers would get layoff notices and all DNR offices in Minnesota including 72 parks and recreational areas would close, said John Winter, northwest regional park manager.
The parks would be vacated, and campers would receive full refunds, he said. By law, people can visit the parks even if they are closed, but Winter said he doesn’t recommend it because there will be no law enforcement personnel available.
DNR officials said they are working with local police and sheriff’s offices to provide visitors some form of security, Winter said. “Conservation enforcement officers could be there, too, but they have the whole state to manage,” he said.
The Fourth of July weekend is the most important holiday of the year for state parks, Winter said. Cancellation of DNR services and Independence Day celebrations would cause a negative economic impact of more than $500,000 on Lake Itasca, one of the region’s most popular parks.
The park’s total visitation on a typical Fourth of July weekend is 319,000 people. About 4,000 of those stay on the lake’s campgrounds for four days and spend an average of $29 per day in food and services.