Duluth News Tribune
“We’re 400 miles away from home,” said one father at the entrance to Gooseberry Falls State Park at midday today as his children piled out of a van ready to walk down to see the falls. The family, not willing to identify themselves, said they had been in the region this week and were staying in Duluth with plans to see the falls.
In the strictest guidelines of the state government shutdown, people are not allowed to enter the park. But even staff at the park had questions about day use of the parks and its trails. Gooseberry manager Audrey Butts on Thursday said parking along Minnesota Highway 61 and at the park entrance was not an option. She said if people could find a safe place to park they could use a trail to go through the park.
Park managers said they had to close the wayside rest for traffic and safety reasons.
Lake County Sheriff Carey Johnson said his main concern was having enough room at the entrance to allow for emergency vehicles in case of an accident or fire. He said it is up to the State Patrol to police the roadside that was filling up fast with parked cars near the entrance.
Johnson said conservation officers from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources are in charge of patrolling the parks.
No officers of any kind could be seen about noon today. A handful of people frolicked at the falls, posing for pictures or hiking through.
There also were several cars pulled to the side of Highway 61 with bike racks and people heading out on to the Gitchi Gami Trail that runs from Gooseberry through Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and to Beaver Bay.
Sen. Tom Bakk, who has played a key role in the budget negotiations that failed to avoid a government shutdown, said keeping the parks open was never an option. He said he fought hard to make sure conservation officers would give people from out of state a break if they are caught fishing without a license. He said he doesn’t want to encourage law-breaking but said it wasn’t fair for people traveling from out of state to plan for a weekend shutdown.
Bakk said he feels for people in his Northeastern Minnesota district affected by state recreation areas closing. He said there may be an up-side.
“I’ll bet all the beds along the North Shore are filled," he said.