The Free Press, Mankato, MN

July 24, 2011

State parks reopen, but some attractions need work

By Tanner Kent
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — Wayne Boerner, for one, is “overjoyed” the state government shutdown is over.

The park manager at Minneopa State Park spoke about his return to its 4,640 riverside acres like a reunion with a lost friend, even if it looked a bit haggard and overgrown.

“It was hard to leave the place empty,” he said. “We’ve been pushing and pushing to get it ready since Thursday.”

After almost three weeks of remaining untouched during the shutdown, state parks had some sprucing up to do for the weekend re-opening.

Many parks officially opened on Friday after state workers returned to their jobs. When they arrived, most found high grass and overgrown trails while some discovered the work of vandals. In this area, no significant vandalism was reported, but some attractions will take a bit longer to prepare for visitors.

Flandrau State Park in New Ulm is now open for all camping and day use. Its swimming pond, however, had to be drained during the shutdown and will not be open to visitors until the first week of August.

A member of the park’s office staff said a several visitors hoping for a retreat from the heat and a dip in the water have had to be turned away.

At Fort Ridgely in Fairfax, the state-run, nine-hole golf course also suffered from weeks of no attention. Joan Sommer, a park worker, said the park is open for day and camping use, but the golf course will not likely be ready until after Aug. 1.

“But it’ll come back better than ever,” she said, adding that though the park is open, it will still take several days for staff to finish mowing and grooming.

“We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”

Boerner echoed the sentiments, saying it will take Minneopa staff until mid-week to catch up with their work. He did say a few ATVs had been through  Minneopa while it was closed, but caused little damage.

Fort Ridgely and Flandrau also reported no significant vandalism.

Other state parks, however were not so fortunate. The Department of Natural Resources said has reported that dozens of state properties were vandalized, with the worst coming at Afton State Park where vandals stole from and damaged three buildings.