Confessions of a state park intruder
On second thought
Photo courtesy Molly Guthrey
Do these little sweethearts look like lawbreakers?

Until last weekend, I’ve been personally unaffected by Minnesota’s state government shutdown.

I don’t have a non-essential government job; I haven’t been in need of a shut down government service and until Saturday, I’ve only been writing about it as an objective, third-party observer.

Well, mostly objective.

It saddened me that campers in the Blue Mounds State Park were sent away from their July Fourth holiday destination. It seemed unbelievable — silly, actually — that it could happen.

I was embarrassed for Minnesota and its leaders and for those of us who elected them.

I was even more embarrassed Saturday when I found myself personally affected by the state shutdown.

I knew the Blue Mounds State Park was closed; I was there when the padlock went on the gate. But as a frequent park visitor, I was in denial that this actually applied to me.

Off-the-record remarks by park officials were that the bike path and trail system could still be used without reprimand. It was merely discouraged; the park, after all, is closed.

So on Saturday, I applied the same off-the-record information to the Blue Mounds State Park beach.

My friend from the Twin Cities and her children were visiting for the weekend, and the hot weather called for beach time.

So, we packed up our kids and their floaties and traveled north one mile to a field driveway east of the lower dam in the park.

We unloaded my Chevy (with its current state park season sticker) and hiked the remaining quarter mile to the beach.

We noticed some signs of neglect from the state shutdown (weeds by the beach house and goose poop near the water), but we were otherwise happy to play in the muddy water on a blistering hot day.

We didn’t speak much about our clandestine park visit, but I admit feeling a bit sly about our back-door entrance.

A few times during our two-hour stay I heard the faint rumble of a distant ATV, and wondered if we’d encounter a game warden.

We did.

As we were winding up to go home, a pleasant man in a brown uniform ambled across the sand.

During the government shutdown, game wardens have the unfortunate role of babysitting closed state parks. And that means shooing away intruders.

He was apologetic as he explained the shutdown policy (which included shooing us off the beach), and I felt bad we had put him in that position.

But mostly I felt angered that our failed state legislators had put us all in that position.

As of this writing there is still no budget agreement, and I have officially joined the ranks of those personally affected by the government shutdown.


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