Tenting and RV camping are still by far the most popular ways to enjoy overnight park visits. But increasingly, “campers” young and old are sharing park experiences while roughing it less than overnight visitors did a generation ago, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
“We have six camper cabins here at Wild River State Park, along with the ‘guest’ cabin,” said park Manager Paul Kurvers. “Two of the cabins have been here 15 years or so, while the other four were added about three years ago.
“The cabins are rented every weekend of the year.”
Wild River’s newer cabins — fee: $50 a night — are part of a building trend. In 2004, When Courtland Nelson became DNR parks and trails division director, Minnesota was late coming to the camper-cabin concept.
South Dakota, for example, had more park cabins than Minnesota.
“South Dakota built their cabins in a correctional facility in Springfield, S.D., and that was the model we initially copied,” Nelson said. “We built our cabins at the (correctional) facility in Red Wing.”
Paid for largely by state bonding, park cabin building in recent years has continued apace. Three year-round cabins with electricity were constructed last year at Lake Shetek State Park. The year previous, three similar cabins were added to Maplewood State Park, while 11 were built in 2008 — four at Sibley, four at Wild River and three at William O’Brien.
In all, 42 camper cabins — each can sleep six people — have been constructed statewide since 2008.
This year, Gov. Mark Dayton’s bonding bill includes $400,000 for more cabins.
“The cabins tend to attract a different kind of visitor than we might otherwise get,” Kurvers said. “These are people who in many cases haven’t previously been to a state park.”
Said Nelson: “The cabins also cater to older people who perhaps don’t want to sleep on the ground anymore. We’ve also found the cabins are popular among people who don’t want to buy camping gear.”
There’s been one rub.
In some parts of the state, resort owners worry that a proliferation of park cabins might hurt their businesses. But Nelson said the cabins don’t compete with the private sector.
“These are very spartan facilities that give Minnesotans a chance to get outdoors,” he said. “We’re strongly in favor of building more cabins in a variety of parks.”