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Despite shutdown, Voyageurs National Park gets funding to partially reopen

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An aerial view of Voyageurs National Park in January 2013
An aerial view of Voyageurs National Park in January 2013.
Steve Foss for MPR News

Voyageurs National Park has received special funding to restore some winter operations for at least the next two weekends.

Voyageurs National Park Association, a nonprofit that partners with the park, is giving a $5,000 grant to the park.

Combined with some federal fee dollars, it will allow the park to open its Rainy Lake Visitors Center for at least the next two weekends, Jan. 12-13 and Jan. 19-20, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., if the partial federal shutdown lasts that long.

It will also pay for four staff to groom cross country ski trails, one snowmobile trail and assess ice safety, said Christine Hausman, Voyageurs National Park Association executive director.

"At the end of the day, Voyageurs National Park is not the type of national park you can close," Hausman said. "It has no entrance or gate, so the public [is] really going to be out enjoying the park either way. We really wanted to make sure they would be able to do that in a safe way."

Hausman said this is the time of year when winter activity begins to pick up at the park, located near International Falls in far northern Minnesota. As a water-based park, she said most of that activity occurs on frozen lakes.

"People want to get out on the ice, snowmobile, cross country ski, ice fish," Hausman said. "We really need to check that ice and make sure our winter trails our safe."

A park service crew was given special permission earlier during the government shutdown to conduct an ice condition assessment and stake out a snowmobile trail just before the New Year.

This new funding will allow for further work, but Hausman said her group is seeking additional funding in case the shutdown drags on.