Rainy, chilly early summer causes decline in state park visitors

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Coming out of the sweltering end of summer, the early part of the season may seem distant. But stop and reflect for a minute. It was not just chilly, it was cold. It rained. And then it rained again. Then some more. Remember?

Not exactly the kind of weather that's ideal for camping, hiking, or touring through one of Minnesota's state parks.

The Associated Press reports the system saw an overall decline in visitors this year because of the slow start of the season, meaning less revenue for the Department of Natural Resources.

The St. Cloud Times keyed on sales of vehicle permits are a measure to count state park visitors. For a seven-month period ending July 31, vehicle permit sales were down 7 percent when compared with the same period last year. Vehicle-permit sales for July rebound by about 8 percent compared to July of 2012 but the pent-up demand was not enough to offset the overall decline.

August data wasn't yet available, but anecdotal evidence suggests that park usage ticked up a bit in recent weeks, the newspaper reported.

Last year, state parks hosted 7,989,720 visitors, according to some DNR fast facts. Almost 16 percent of park visitors come from other states and countries, the DNR notes.

The most visited state parks in 2012:

Fort Snelling – 959,859 visitors
Gooseberry Falls – 598,889
Itasca – 512,352
Interstate - 307,729
Split Rock Lighthouse – 304,576

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