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‘Contingency plan’ for state parks in the works if government shuts down

We are now a month away from what could be an intensely busy weekend in our state parks.

We are now a month away from what could be an intensely busy weekend in our state parks. But will they be open?

If there is to be a state government shutdown, it would begin on July 1, which just happens to be a Friday of a long Fourth of July weekend. Campgrounds and picnic sites typically would be packed.

Who faces the wrath of Minnesotans if there are closed signs across all of those parks? Gov. Mark Dayton or the Republican Legislature?  Are plans being made to keep the parks open until July 5? Are plans being made to close the parks on July 1?

At this point, state officials aren’t saying.

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Chris Niskanen, who up until three months ago would have been asking these questions as the outdoor editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, now is trying to answer them as the communications director of the Department of Natural Resources.

“We are still hopeful a compromise will be reached,’’ he said of the stalemate between the governor and the legislature.

That doesn’t sound like much of a plan, given that thousands of people will be descending on the state parks for the long holiday weekend.

“We are still working on a contingency plan,’’ Niskanen said.

It will do no good, he added, for people to call the DNR, individual parks, the Department of Tourism. The answer will be clear – well, sort of clear.

“We’ve just started working on a contingency plan.’’