HINCKLEY, Minn. (AP) — A recent storm that packed winds of more than 100 mph left hundreds of acres of forest in Minnesota's premier state park in ruins and damaged historic buildings. And, with many of the state government functions shut down due to a political budget impasse, cleanup of the popular St. Croix State Park could take a while.
The storm cut through the 34,000-acre park last weekend, leaving the campground, hiking trails and roads littered with toppled pines and hardwood trees. On a holiday weekend, the 200 campsites in the park would likely have been filled, but the government shutdown left the park empty.
"It's sort of a silver lining," said Jim Konrad, head of the Department of Natural Resources' enforcement division. If the park had been filled, people likely would have been hurt or killed by falling trees, he said.
An aerial survey of the park showed many of its historic buildings were damaged, said Courtland Nelson, the DNR's director of parks and trails. The National Park Service helped design the park in the 1930s, and workers from the Civilian Conservation Corps built bridges over creeks and rivers, constructed buildings, planted trees and cut trails. Many of the buildings in the park are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The St. Croix is only one of seven or eight state parks in the country listed as a National Historic Landmark, Nelson said.
Nelson said he hopes to get approval during the government shutdown to get some crews into the park to begin clearing roads in case of an emergency.
"Right now, it's impossible to get in there on foot," he said. "Once we start looking on the ground we'll start seeing more damage. It's going to be a big job."
The Star Tribune reported major cleanup of the St. Croix (http://bit.ly/p08LdM) won't be done until the budget stalemate is resolved at the state Capitol.
Nelson said he and other parks employees are saddened by the devastation.
"It will change the aesthetics and ecology (of the park)," he said. "It's going to be a different place now, regardless of what we do."
Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.