First campers return to find Jay Cooke State Park in good shapeSometimes blind faith pays off. Just ask Brian Dykhuizen of St. Paul.
By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune, Pine Journal
Sometimes blind faith pays off. Just ask Brian Dykhuizen of St. Paul.
He had made reservations in May to camp at Jay Cooke State Park this weekend, and despite a state government shutdown beginning July 1, he remained steadfast in his faith that the impasse wouldn’t exceed 22 days.
“I was kind of dismissive of the shutdown,” he said, explaining why he never made alternative plans.
The park welcomed its first guests into the campground at noon Friday, just hours before Dykhuizen’s arrival.
If the park hadn’t been open, Dykhuizen jokingly threatened he would have pitched his tent on state Capitol grounds in protest.
Dykhuizen praised park staff for a quick and relatively seamless reopening, saying: “Everyone really busted their (butts) to get this place up and running again.”
Eunice Luedtke, manager of Jay Cooke State Park, said many other would-be campers already had canceled their weekend reservations, however. Those cancellations plus wet, blustery weather Saturday led to a soft opening at the park.
“It was kind of nice that our people got a little time to regroup,” she said, reflecting a relatively quiet first weekend back in business. Luedtke said it probably will take the park’s 16 employees a few weeks to catch up on mowing and trail maintenance.
Normally, at this time of year, the park would be packed to capacity, but Luedtke estimated that only about 40 percent of campsites were claimed this past weekend.
Minnesota state parks won’t accept any new advance reservations until Tuesday, but they are honoring old ones.
In the interim, available sites generally will be claimed daily on a first-come, first-served basis.
That system created a spur-of-the-moment opportunity for several campers.
Jay South of Cloquet seized the opportunity to take his sons — Aaron, 4, and Joshua, 9 — on a weekend camping trip at Jay Cooke.
“At first, we couldn’t tell if they would have sites available. It was kind of wait and see,” South said, guessing the weather and the uncertainties caused by the shutdown dissuaded some others from hitting the campground.
Zach Sverdrup of Montana was vacationing with his wife, Heather, and three daughters, ages 4 to 10, in Duluth but had been closely monitoring the news in hopes that state parks would reopen. The family had loaded camping gear into their vehicle for just such an opportunity.
“We had planned on camping, but then there was the shutdown,” he said.
When the shutdown ended, the Sverdrups were quick to trade a Duluth hotel room for more rustic but cheaper accommodations at Jay Cooke.
“We thought we’d better get in there and get a spot right away,” Zach Sverdrup said. As one of the first parties to arrive Thursday afternoon, the family had no problem scoring a desirable site.
As summer crowds return, however, Minnesota campers will face a tighter squeeze.