Several improvements in the works at Lake Shetek State Park
CURRIE -- Things may be a bit crazy this spring and summer during the construction season, but in the end, the results at Lake Shetek State Park will definitely justify the means.
Those familiar with the layout of the campground and trails will likely be pleased with what they find, as will first-time visitors.
What used to be called Wolf Point Campground has been renamed Oak Woods Campground. After all construction is complete, the campground will have approximately 40 percent less campsites than it did, but almost all of those sites will have 50-amp electrical service.
"We reduced the amount of people traffic by about a third," stated Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Park Manager Kerry Christoffer.
The original sites were just too close together, Christoffer said, and people were camping on top of each other. The sites were also smaller back when the park was designed in the 1930s, and didn't allow for a one-ton pickup pulling a large camper. One of the oldest campgrounds, Christoffer, said, Lake Shetek State Park's camping facilities were "shot."
"The electrical boxes were outdated, and things were falling apart," Christoffer added. "With the way things are restructured, the waterways are completely different, which will reduce the amount of erosion and runoff going into the lake."
The former campground, he said, was a design disaster, with lots of loops and one-way traffic, which meant a constant line of vehicles driving through the camping area. The new design removes several of the roads and opens up the individual sites.
Where there was once a single camper cabin, the campground will now have four, making it easier for families or groups without large amounts of equipment to enjoy the experience of camping. Christoffer said the cabins are also popular with motorcyclists. Once the additional three are built, they will be available for use all year long.
"We have people come through and use the cabins that have never camped before, so the cabins are just the ticket for them," Christoffer said. "I think it's great, and we meet some really great people who are willing to give camping a try."
To make up for the loss of campsites in a park that is often booked tight during camping season on weekends, a second campground was added after ground behind the Koch Cabin was cleared.
Sunrise Campground, located on the opposite side of the main park road, adds approximately 30 more campsites, each with water and sewer hookup and 50-amp electrical service. In two spots in Sunrise Campground, the sites form "pods" with shelter buildings in the center. The roof of each shelter is covered in solar panels.
"The parks are looking at alternate energy sources," Christoffer explained, adding that the funding for the solar panels came through a grant.
The pods will be attractive to people who camp in a group, as they can reserve individual spots around the pod and use the shelter building as a group area.
All of the necessary construction will be dependent on weather, but as of now, the park is taking reservations for Sunrise Campground for July 1 and beyond. No date has been established for Oak Woods.
"We have to wait until the new grass establishes itself so it's stable," Christoffer explained. "I'd advise people to keep an eye on the DNR website."
The rustic campsites and cart-in sites will be available for their usual seasonal use.
Christoffer said he is excited about the changes made last fall, the construction this spring and the way Lake Shetek State Park is upgrading.
"I think we'll see more people who stay longer, camp during the week, now that the campers won't be on top of each other and the sites are larger and wider," he said.
The campground construction isn't the only thing that's going to keep Christoffer and his staff busy this spring. In addition to working on the changes, Christoffer has a couple of other projects in mind. Using Legacy Funding, tent pads were put in the cartin sites, and a new fishing pier will be built. The park had already been awarded design money to take a look at uses for a historic building constructed by the WPA.
"I'm hoping we can convert it to a camper cabin or a duplex camper cabin," Christoffer said. "What a great place for two families to camp together."
The Legacy Funding is giving state parks the opportunity to engage in projects considered for years, but never acted on because of funding. Part of the campground construction at Lake Shetek State Park is being funded through the Legacy Funding, but the majority of it is being handled through bonding.
Many people are not aware of the things offered at state parks, when it comes to keeping kids busy and families engaged. Lake Shetek State Park has kits that can be checked out from the office that are geared toward teaching children about the outdoors. There are bird watching kits, geocaching kits and Jr. Naturalist kits. In addition, the park has 14 miles of hiking trails, six miles of surfaced bike trails and more than seven miles of handicapped accessible trails. Once all camp sites are up and running, there will be handicapped-accessible sites that feature special fire rings and tables for people in wheelchairs.
The plans for upgrading the park started before Christoffer took over as manager five years ago.
"I've done this before," he explained. "I did Lac qui Parle as well. It was the first park to have sewer hookups."
Christoffer has worked for the DNR for 37 years, having started out in the wildlife division at age 18.
"I've been part of 10 different park operations, and manager or assistant manager at nine of them," he said.
For more information, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_p arks/lake_shetek.