North Dakota’s Parks and Recreation Department is looking to upgrade state parks after a record year of camping in 2020, according to The Bismark Tribune.
Gov. Doug Burgum’s budget blueprint included nearly $20 million to address deferred maintenance and to modernize park amenities. The House Appropriations Committee approved $7.5 million for deferred maintenance in the $48.1 million two-year department budget the House passed 81-13 on Wednesday (Feb. 24). The bill now goes to the Senate.
“We have a big asset in the state, and that’s our parks and rec,” said Rep. Mike Nathe, R-Bismarck.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, North Dakota’s 13 state parks saw a 35% increase in campsite nights from May 1-Oct. 31 last year compared to the same period in 2019.
North Dakota’s state parks chief expects the interest to remain high in 2021; in the first weekend of January, more than 1,500 people signed up for Parks and Rec’s new “12-months 12-parks” hiking challenge.
Amid mild weather in January, some campers came out with ice fishing houses — even one with a big tent and a stove.
Parks and Recreation Director Andrea Travnicek said the department wants to maintain the campsites and facilities it has but “also continue to modernize them as well so that we are keeping up with our visitors’ customer needs, their expectations of what they’re hoping to find when they come out to our property.”
North Dakota’s state parks have a $74 million backlog of deferred maintenance, including buildings’ painting, shingling, plumbing, and utilities, as well as park roadways.
Burgum’s budget recommendation asks for $10 million for deferred maintenance and $9.9 million for upgrades such as broadband technology and greater electrical services, Travnicek said.
Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park south of Mandan has an estimated $8 million to $9 million of deferred maintenance, according to Parks and Rec spokeswoman Kristin Byram. A spring survey will document the needs.
Items are mostly electrical and campsite upgrades; and some buildings in need of siding, shingles or plumbing, along with accessibility upgrades, Park Manager Dan Schelske said. There are needed road and shoreline repairs, too.
The Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps built a lot of the park’s structures, including the visitor center, main office, and picnic shelters.