The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is going to reopen its campgrounds at state parks, state forests and recreation areas in a phased approach beginning June 1.
Gov. Tim Walz announced that public and private campgrounds may reopen beginning June 1, if they create a preparedness plan and follow State of Minnesota campground guidelines.
State parks and recreation areas are like small cities that need to have all of their infrastructure restarted in order to reopen. This includes water, sewer, power, roads, trails and buildings.
During the stay-at-home order, the DNR limited its on-site parks and trails workforce to only those employees most critical to support day-use activities, to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and allow time for critical public health preparations across Minnesota.
While this was necessary to protect public health, as a result, the DNR now has a lot of work left to do to ready campgrounds and lodging for overnight visitors.
While more details will be available in the coming weeks, the DNR generally plans to open sites as soon as they are ready.
Dispersed camping in state forests is already allowed, and the DNR anticipates the following general timeline going forward:
The DNR opened 75 remote campsites in state parks May 22 for use on Memorial Day weekend, most of which had existing reservations. Another 80 remote sites are expected to be ready by May 29.
The DNR anticipates having about 20-30 of its campgrounds within state parks, recreation areas and forest campgrounds ready to open June 1, with limited services. Some lodging options, such as camper cabins and yurts, will also open June 1.
In general, visitors can expect that water systems will be turned on, grounds will be maintained and vault toilets /porta-toilets will be available. However, some value-added services may not be ready or available at that point, such as showers and contact/ranger stations.
The DNR will reopen another 20-30 campgrounds and lodging facilities June 8, the rest of its remote campsites, and many of its contact /ranger stations.
The DNR plans to have the rest of the campgrounds open and most areas with full services June 15.
The Mary Gibbs Cafe at Itasca State Park, some nature stores and ancillary buildings, such as fish cleaning facilities and picnic shelters with reduced capacities, will be reopened where it is possible.
Campers should come prepared with their own hand sanitizer, cleaning wipes, paper towels, toilet paper and other supplies for use at their campsites and at available bathrooms.
The DNR will leave the following facilities and amenities closed until further notice: beaches, pond-pools, housekeeping cabins, visitor centers, group centers, fire towers, large-group facilities (such as amphitheaters), group tours and other scheduled interpretive programs.
Minnesotans are encouraged to use the following guidelines in order to minimize potential points of virus transmission:
• Travel as directly to the destination as possible, and minimize stops along the way.
• Attempt to bring all needed supplies with you.
• If you do need to stop for gas or supplies, wear a cloth face covering.
• Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after touching common surfaces (gas pumps, door handles, shared bathrooms, etc.).
• Do not travel if you are sick.
Visitors are advised to check the DNR’s Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us for the latest information.
- Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Web site