On Easter weekend, Tom and Julie Anderson of Inver Grove Heights, Minn., visited a cathedral they knew well: Wild River State Park, along the St. Croix River.
The Andersons parked their home-away-from-home RV among statuesque red oaks before unfolding lawn chairs and lighting a fire. “We try to camp at least twice a month,” Tom Anderson said.
With record-high gas prices and a slowing economy, Minnesota state parks attracted 8% more campers in 2008 than in 2007, according to the Department of Natural Resources. “Camping is what we like to do,” Julie Anderson said. “If we had to cut spending because of the economy, we would do less at home rather than give this up.”
Minnesota’s camping uptick appears poised to continue this summer, according to the StarTribune.com. Already, 95% of reservable state park electric sites have been spoken for over Memorial Day weekend, and 78% of those sites have been reserved for July 4th. And state park cabins, which sleep up to six people, are essentially booked for Memorial Day and July 4th, and 70% reserved for Labor Day weekend.
So is camping a recession-proof outdoor obsession among Minnesotans?
“Camping is still seen as a value vacation, a low-cost way to have fun and be outdoors,” said Patricia Arndt, DNR parks planning and public affairs manager.
Even some state parks that require long drives from the Twin Cities recorded visitation increases last year. Blue Mound in the southwest saw a 16% visitor jump. The increase was 2% at Glacial Lakes in west-central Minnesota.