Because of the shutdown, now in its third week, many federal employees have been furloughed and agency Web sites temporarily taken offline. The Obama administration announced last week that it would allow states to pay to reopen national parks closed by the shutdown. Some states, such as Utah, are taking advantage of the opportunity. Others are not. And still others, including Minnesota, are weighing the option.
“Our governor’s instructions to us were to take a look at the feasibility of it,” Niskanen said. That assessment, reported by The Star Tribune, is in its early stages, he said, adding that state officials may have had success in getting more information from the federal government since he last checked.
The “land of 10,000 lakes” is in a bit of a unique position. It has few very heavily visited national park sites, and even those that are more popular often have state access points. Voyager National Park on the Canadian border, for example, is largely water-based, and boaters can use state ramps instead of now-closed federal ramps, Niskanen said.
“We have lots of opportunities for people to enjoy our water resources,” he said.
On the other hand, the leaves on Minnesota’s trees are changing colors, and winter is not far off, meaning park visitation will soon drop.
Niskanen says he expects a decision at the end of the week or maybe early next week. But, it might not matter in the end.
“It may very well be that the shutdown is resolved before we’re in a position to make any decisions,” he said.