SPICER -- Minnesota State Parks are reporting one of their busiest seasons ever, with an announcement this week that annual permit sales jumped 36 percent and daily sales by 32 percent from one year ago.
The final numbers have yet to be tallied, but there's reason to believe that Sibley State Park was among the state parks hosting more visitors. Park Manager Paul Otto said periodic checks throughout the season indicated that permit sales were up, as was park usage in general.
Monson Lake State Park saw a 23 percent increase in camping this year. The installation of electrical services at some of the campsites this year and the extension of the camping season beyond Labor Day were the big factors in the increase, he said.
While Otto doesn't know the final numbers for Sibley yet, he has a good idea of what brought more people to the park. The addition of camper cabins has served to attract new visitors to the park, he noted. The camper cabins saw 90 percent occupancy during the Memorial Day to Labor Day season.
The economy also played a role. More people were choosing to camp and discover the outdoors close to home, rather than setting off on big national trips, said the park manager.
And lastly, but importantly, the weather was right. The summer was on the dry side and there were no major heat waves or temperature extremes.
Any year-to-year comparison of camping numbers can be tricky because the weather plays such a big role, said Otto. He said he is confident that this year's increase in usage speaks to more than just favorable weather.