Five federal recreation areas on northern Minnesota lakes could be managed as state parks under a proposal being negotiated by state and federal officials, according to a report in the Duluth News Tribune.
Under the plan, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would lease the campgrounds to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) with the state running them under its state parks banner by 2008 or sooner.
“We’re interested in five Corps campgrounds and we’re proceeding in a cautionary way to evaluate that opportunity,” said Courtland Nelson, Parks and Recreation division director of the DNR. “It’s an ongoing discussion.”
Minnesota lawmakers and Gov. Tim Pawlenty last spring, with little notice, approved $400,000 for the current state budget year to be used by the DNR to run the campgrounds if an agreement can be struck with the federal government. If it takes more than one year, the money would have to be reapproved.
The sites are the Pokegama Lake Recreation Area near Grand Rapids, Gull Lake Recreation Area near Brainerd, Big Sandy Lake Recreation Area near McGregor, Leech Lake Recreation Area near Federal Dam and the Lake Winnibigoshish Recreation Area near Deer River.
A sixth federal site, in Cross Lake, may be managed by the city or county, Nelson noted.
The recreation areas offer camping sites and boat launching ramps on some of the state’s most popular fishing lakes but have been the victims of budget cuts this year. It appeared, earlier this year, the sites might be closed. But with volunteer assistance and last-minute federal funding, all remained open, some with reduced services, said Tom Crump, chief of project management for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ St. Paul District.
“Recreation is still part of our mission. But if a state wants to come in and operate sites, we can work with that,” Crump said. “We have some conditions that need to be met. We want to make sure the camping public is served, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue here.”