ST. PAUL -- Campers might get some unwelcome visitors if Minnesota lawmakers don't pass a budget by next Saturday: State park workers asking them to pack up and head out.
"I'm afraid they would have to leave," said Carmen Diestler, spokeswoman for the parks division of the Department of Natural Resources.
The agency already is alerting those making campground reservations about the possibility.
"We are telling them what the situation might be," she said. "We also are telling them that we're hoping against hope that this won't happen."
If no new state budget is in place by July 1, funding for most state agencies would dry up and most government services would shut down -- including campgrounds and parks.
Because the Fourth of July holiday falls on a Wednesday, many people are expected to begin their camping getaways over the June 30-July 1 weekend.
Diestler said that weekend normally brings in about 15,000 overnight campers, which makes it the second busiest weekend of the year following Memorial Day.
About 3,500 campsites already have been reserved, she said. The other 900 are first-come, first-served and usually fill up quickly. The price for campsites ranges from $7 to $15 per night, meaning the state stands to lose tens of thousands of dollars.
The DNR also operates about 300 cabins, horse camps, group camps, guest houses and other lodging that also would be closed.
Because reservations can be made up to 90 days beforehand for campsites, some campers coming in from other states may have made reservations two or three months ago and may not be aware of the looming shutdown.
Diestler said DNR officials likely would call people who made their reservations to let them know their vacations may be cut short.
If they get word before next Saturday that "there is no hope" for an agreement, the DNR might shut the campgrounds down earlier, she said.
Anyone who paid ahead of time for days they were unable to use would receive a refund, she said.
The state's 68 parks also would be closed. In a typical July, about 400,000 people use the parks every week.
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