Campers asked to leave state parks due to government shutdown

Jon Tatting
ECM Post Review, North Branch

Brent and Mary Howe of Stacy were looking forward to camping a few nights at Wild River State Park. There were going to grill out, enjoy some quality time together and make sure the old camper was in tip top shape.

Stacy residents Brent and Mary Howe, the last campers to leave Wild River State Park campground at 4 p.m. June 30, talk to park manager Paul Kurvers about the shutdown’s impact on the park system. Photos by Jon Tatting

Instead of relaxing before their last night day of camping, however, they found themselves packing up and heading home. They were the last to leave the park. The state government shutdown was real after all.

The Howes, along with the many others who had planned to stay at their favorite state park over 4th of July weekend, were forced to leave by 4 p.m. July 30. Day visitors had until 10 p.m. to hike the trails or paddle a canoe. After that, facilities were locked, the gates came down and final road blocks were placed.

Camping reservations were canceled, though refunds were given. Park staff including management were all laid off at the end of their shifts on Thursday.

It was a sad day indeed for Wild River park employees including manager Paul Kurvers, who noted that substantial revenue will be lost, since the park typically averages 1,500 visitors each day of a weekend throughout the summer.

Wild River, as many state parks, would have been at capacity this 4th of July weekend.

Wild River security intern Jake Deuermeyer places a “Do not enter” sign on the park road that leads to the campground area.

In light of a shutdown, Kurvers said park staff had been preparing a week in advance, from communicating with prospective campers about refunds and other places to go, to concessionaires about such services as canoe rentals.

Even if a lights-on bill or a budget agreement is made, explained Kurvers on Thursday, the park will have limited services available and staff would need up to three days to get the park fully operational again.

For more information on the shutdown’s impact on state parks and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, go to for a list of frequently asked questions.