MN gov't shutdown: Day 4

Posted at 3:00 PM on July 4, 2011 by Catharine Richert (1 Comments)

The shutdown is four days old, and its effects are starting to settle in.

Here's a look at where things stand on day four, courtesy of MPR's Laura Yuen.

As a canoe outfitter serving paddlers setting out for the Boundary Waters, Steve Piragis is still keeping busy. While state campgrounds have closed because of the shutdown, the federal wilderness remains open for business.

But Piragis says he expects a lot of out-of-state visitors will be disappointed when they learn they can't buy a fishing license during the shutdown. A man from Ohio has already called Piragis' store in a panic, with his visions of catching his dinner at the campsite now thrown into doubt.

"The word is out around the country. It's been national news. He heard the news in Ohio, and decided to better call us to see if he's gonna be able to fish. We had to say, 'Not legally, not unless you have a fishing license already.'"

The man told Piragis that he may not make it to Ely at all if the government is still shut down by the end of the week.

"The was a little radical to me -- the Boundary Waters is a lot more than just fishing. But it's pretty important to a lot of people."

Across the state in southeastern Minnesota, a private campground took in seven groups of campers who were booted from the nearby Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park. But Doris Palmer, who runs the family-owned Maple Springs grounds, says she's not celebrating the extra business.

"My thoughts are it's sad. It's very sad. And we would much rather it be open, and people going there."

Palmer also runs a small country store where campers at the state park stop to fill up on ice and groceries. She says business is down about 20 percent.

"But that's not our No. 1 concern. We need that state park to be open. It's just beautiful there."

Although the trails are open at Forestville State Park, all the facilities are locked up. The water is shut off, and there are no restrooms. The Department of Natural Resources says the public is still allowed to make day trips to state parks, but it's not recommended.

Other popular July 4th destinations, such as the Splitrock Light House on the North Shore, are closed. The Minnesota Historical Society emptied its museums and canceled Independence Day programs, ironically on a day when many Americans might be thinking about history.

Even state prisons had to take actions that were noticed by the public. The corrections system has suspended all visits to adult correctional facilities.

Department of Corrections spokesman John Schadl says the three-day weekend typically would have drawn a number of visits to the prisons.

"This is not a decision we took lightly. We were bound by what the court ruled, and the criteria they gave us. This is a real hardship for the offenders within our facilities, but most importantly, it's a hardship for their families."

Schadl says only critical services within the prison system are funded during the shutdown.

(That includes services that protect public safety and protect the state from significant financial harm. While corrections officers kept their jobs, the department had to let go about 15 percent of its work force, including many building maintenance workers.)

The department also had to halt all volunteer-run programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and religious services. But Schadl says in-house chemical-dependency treatment and other programs will continue.

"If you've got offenders who are not constructively occupied, it can breed conditions that are unsafe for our staff."

Schadl says if the shutdown persists, officials will re-evaluate the situation this week and make changes if needed.

One laid-off state employee who was called back to work this weekend was a state fire investigator. Department of Public Safety spokesman Doug Neville says the fire marshal's office was not deemed essential.

But after a fire broke out early Saturday at a New Ulm bed and breakfast, killing six people, Neville says the office sent one employee to help with the investigation. He says the emergency response was seamless.

"We have 24-7 contact information for these people, so if it becomes necessary to recall them to perform a critical function, we can do that. And it may not be for the duration for the shutdown that they come back, it's to come back to perform that critical function."

But most of the 22-thousand state employees who were laid off won't be so lucky to find work.

Comments (1)

To get one of their best camp sites @ Split Rock you have to book a year in advance. My vacation is canceled this year because of bureaucrats. I think it its time to Camp at the Capitol . Twitter #campatthecapitol

Posted by Jess Erickson | July 4, 2011 3:57 PM

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