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Afton State Park, other parks poised to close Thursday

State park visitors will have to break camp by Thursday afternoon if a state government shutdown begins Friday.

Campers at Afton State Park and other parks around the state will have to be out of the park by 4 p.m. Thursday, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The parks were not deemed essential government services in a Wednesday court ruling, so would not be staffed in the event of a shutdown.

After they close Thursday afternoon, park staff would turn building thermostats to "unoccupied" and complete other tasks to shut down the facilities, said Amy Barrett, a DNR information officer.

Parks will not check in any campers Thursday morning if there is not a budget deal that would avert a state government shutdown. Some parks will remain open to day visitors until 10 p.m. Thursday.

Campsites at many parks were booked for the July 4 weekend.

"I think most people are pretty aware from the news reports that that's a possibility," Barrett said of park closures.

According to park data, Afton saw about 25,000 visitors in July during both 2010 and 2009. The park saw a total of 190,000 visitors in all of 2010, generating $275,000 in revenue.

A shutdown would bar hikers and campers from entering the park. Afton has 28 backpack-accessible campsites, two group campgrounds, four camper cabins and one canoe site.

Assistant Park Manager Kris Backlund said all reservable campsites for the upcoming holiday weekend had been reserved. She said all campsites are generally full on summer weekends, depending on weather conditions.

All reservations directly impacted by an actual interruption in government services will be refunded after services are restored, according to the DNR. Through Thursday, cancellation penalties will be waived for reservations that include a night between June 30 and July 14.

The DNR has posted a "frequently asked questions" section on its homepage devoted to the possible shutdown.

Sales of fishing and hunting licenses would likely be suspended in the event of a shutdown. The DNR urged license-seekers to purchase any licenses before July 1 as a precaution.

The DNR's website would also be inaccessible during a shutdown.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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