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State parks ready for 2009 season

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outdoors Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

The great thing about Minnesota state parks are that they always get better year after year.

New campgrounds, camping opportunities and programs add to the list of experiences for families as the spring days grow longer into beautifully warm summer nights.

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This year is no different for state parks in the Tribune area. While the economy and budget freezes have curtailed major projects, the little bits here and there will make a big difference for some.

Take Monson Lake State Park, for example. As the smallest of the area's five state-owned outdoor recreation areas, Monson Lake has long been hampered by the fact that campers had no way to "plug in".

"At Monson Lake we now have electric sites," said Paul Otto, the park manager for Sibley State Park near New London and who oversees operations at Monson Lake. "We had a project last fall to put in six electric sites. When our sites fill up (at Sibley), we can suggest to them to go to Monson Lake."

The six electric sites will boost the popularity to the park's 20 drive-in sites on the scenic bar of land nestled between Monson Lake and West Sunburg Lake north and west of Sunburg.

Camper cabins were a big hit last season at parks like Sibley, Lac qui Parle and Glacial Lakes. The popularity is even stronger this year, Otto said.

"The camper cabins have been very good for us here," he said. "There was only about one weekend this winter where we didn't have anyone in there. It has been very well received by the public. We are full for July already."

Camper cabins take the expense out of camping for families who don't have tents, campers and all the little things that go along with it. Plus the cabins provide great shelter when the weather is not as perfect as we would want it.

"They're extremely popular. ... They are in our Oak Ridge campground. We've had individual cabin rentals and we will have times this summer when all four are rented by the same party," Otto said. "They have screen porches on them so people can enjoy the evening without dealing with the bugs."

Sibley will also be adding two more boat docks to its Lake Andrew access for a total of four.

Upper Sioux Agency near Granite Falls doesn't have camper cabins, a fact that park manager Terri Dinesen laments, but she said she's seen the effect it's had already.

"I personally believe the camper cabins are a great way to introduce people to camping and the state parks," she said. "If it rains, you can stay inside and play games. You're not laying out all the money for a tent and camping pads. We saw people staying in camper cabins at Lac qui Parle and they'd come here to ski."

Upper Sioux Agency does have rental teepees, Dinesen said, and this year they've been upgraded with painted inner liners.

To discover the accommodations at any of Minnesota's state parks, visit the Department of Natural Resources' website at mndnr.gov.

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