State Park Usage Jumps

by John Weiss

LEROY -- Rod Radosevich put on his inline skates while his wife, children and other relatives waited on bicycles. The family was ready to roll down the Shooting Star State Trail.

And maybe catch up with his parents.

The extended family from River Falls and Menasha, Wis., and Des Moines, Iowa, met at Lake Louise State Park near LeRoy last weekend for family gathering. They needed to make reservations three months in advance because Minnesota’s parks are being heavily used for camping up 7 to 9 percent over last year, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. This has been an outstanding year, with a record number of daily permits sold in July.

For the Radoseviches, part of the reason to come to that park was location -- it was centrally located.

“We like the state parks because we know they’re comfortable, good places to camp, well managed, clean and this one has a bike trail,” Rod said.

It was their first time at that park, but they’ve been to several others in Minnesota, including Itasca and Temperance. They haven’t been able to get into Whitewater.

Mark White wouldn’t be surprised to hear that.

He manages Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park and oversees Lake Louise.

Usage is way up at Lake Louise, he said. For example, camping through July was up to 2,613 sites, compared with 2,234 in the summer of 2008, he said.

Part of the reason is that the cooler weather isn’t making people rush north to cool off, White said. And Lake Louise has excellent staff, including campground hosts Gareld and Verna Stockdale of Spring Valley, to take care of it.

The picnic area is one of the best in the region and the park has a variety of habitats, including restored prairie where flowers are attracting monarch butterflies, White said. A week ago, there were thousands down there, “it was a fairy land,” he said.

The trail has helped and so has more things for kids to do, such as geocaching. It has naturalist programs but only sporadically, White said. Eventually, in concert with those promoting the trail, he’d like to see more programs. With money from the Legacy Amendment that was passed by voters last fall, it’s possible the park can offer more new things, he said.


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