MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
NPR's David Schaper visited one.
DAVID SCHAPER: I'm standing at the front gate of Minnesota's Afton State Park. It's about a half hour or so east of the state capital city of St. Paul. And it's just a beautiful summer afternoon - sunny skies, temperatures in the 80s - a picture-perfect day to take a hike or a bike ride through this hilly natural treasure along the pristine St. Croix River or maybe go fishing or camp overnight. But the gates here are locked. The park is closed.
NORRIS: It's really quiet.
SCHAPER: Twenty-three-year-old Kevin Schulz of nearby Maplewood, Minnesota, just finished a long hike through the nearly empty state park.
NORRIS: It's a weird feeling. Yeah. There were a couple of times where, you know, you're out there and got to - back to the back edge where the St. Croix tributaries go past and kind of thought about it, the fact that like, within miles, there isn't probably nobody else.
SCHAPER: But Schulz did see some signs of destruction to natural areas and some of the cabins in the unattended park.
NORRIS: There were a few spots off the main road where it looked like somebody had been having fires and stuff like that. There was trash on some of the trails. They had a broken window that had been boarded up on plywood.
SCHAPER: Washington County Sheriff Bill Hutton says on Monday his deputies arrested more than a dozen people. He says the group ransacked the state park's office, trashed a couple of cabins and trails.
SHERIFF BILL HUTTON: This event would have not occurred if the state was in operation.
SCHAPER: And the closures are raising the ire of those who would be using the parks.
NORRIS: My name is Tracy Larsen. I'm from Lake Minnetonka. I have a business that's not far from here, and with the St. Croix being as beautiful as it is, we thought we'd come down today and try to catch some fish.
NORRIS: But the state park is closed, and we don't know where the landing is from here or where we should go.
SCHAPER: As for the political gridlock that led to the shutdown...
NORRIS: I think it's a fiasco. I mean, we all have to keep our business in order; our businesses run on budgets. It's just not very impressive. People have a certain amount of time to get this figured out. They should get it figured out without having to furlough the state employees and shut down the parks.
SCHAPER: Donna Baisden of St. Paul had planned time off this week with her husband, Don, specifically to hike through several of Minnesota's beautiful state parks.
NORRIS: We are absolutely so lucky to have this in the state, which is why we're both outraged that this has happened and people can't camp here and they can't hike and they can't bike. And it just seems a waste, a total waste.
SCHAPER: David Schaper, NPR News in Afton, Minnesota.
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