APPLE VALLEY, Minn. — The RV outside Mark Lutes' Apple Valley home is all ready to go.
"Has everything we ever wanted," said Lutes. "This is our cabin on wheels."
He and his family always go camping for Memorial Day Weekend.
It's a tradition that has lasted nearly 40 years.
This year he was heading to St. Croix Bluffs in Washington County.
"We're depressed because we really thought we were going camping," said Lutes.
COVID-19 continues to keep state campgrounds closed. Mark has been asking Governor Walz to reopen them for the holiday weekend.
"It's not different than people walking in parks," said Lutes.
The DNR says there's a reason campgrounds have been closed.
"Places where people could spread the virus," said Kim Pleticha with the DNR.
She says only 75 remote campsites in state parks are open this weekend although most of those have existing reservations.
Another 80 are expected to open by May 29.
She says people can take part in dispersed camping this weekend.
"Wilderness experience for people who are experienced campers," said Pleticha. "You have to be at least a mile outside a developed campground on a state forest. You also have to set up your own fire ring. There are no campsites. You have to pick a spot within our 5 million acres of state forest."
She says reopening campgrounds will be a process with new cleaning and social distancing protocols.
"Taking a very phased approach to campgrounds," said Pleticha.
The DNR released their reopening timeline for campgrounds Thursday:
- May 22: The DNR will open 75 remote campsites in state parks for use on Memorial Day weekend, most of which had existing reservations. Another 80 remote sites are expected to be ready by May 29.
- June 1: The DNR anticipates having about 20-30 of its campgrounds within state parks, recreation areas and forest campgrounds ready to open, with limited services. Some lodging options, such as camper cabins and yurts, will also open on June 1. In general, visitors can expect that water systems will be turned on, grounds will be maintained, and vault toilets/porta-toilets will be available. However, some value-added services may not be ready or available at that point, such as showers and contact/ranger stations.
- June 8: The DNR will reopen another 20-30 campgrounds and lodging facilities, the rest of its remote campsites, and many of its contact/ranger stations.
- June 15: The DNR plans to have the rest of the campgrounds open and most areas with full services. The Mary Gibbs Café at Itasca State Park, some nature stores, and ancillary buildings - such as fish cleaning facilities and picnic shelters with reduced capacities - will be reopened where possible.
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