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Attendance at Lake Bemidji State Park follows statewide downward trend

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BEMIDJI — Minnesota's state parks saw an overall decline in visitors this year, thanks to chilly, rainy weather that kept many people away at the start of the season.

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Visitation at Lake Bemidji State Park was down 5 percent this summer compared to 2012, according to park manager Pete Harrison.

"But we did have just slightly more overnight visitors this year," Harrison added.

The late spring is thought to be among the main factors in the lower number of visitors at Lake Bemidji State Park.

"We saw the biggest difference in numbers, of course, during the early part of this summer season," Harrison said. "We went from the earliest ice-off on record for Lake Bemidji on April 2, 2012 to the second-latest ice-off on May 17 of this year.

"The colder, wetter weather kept people from going out and recreating," Harrison continued. "Otherwise, the rest of the summer was about on par to last year."

Statewide, according to statistics gathered by the St. Cloud Times, sales of daily and 12-month state park permits for a seven-month period ending July 31 were down 7 percent when compared with the same period last year.

The overall statewide drop means less revenue for the Department of Natural Resources. The DNR said permit revenues were $2.56 million through July compared with about $2.72 million at the same time last year. DNR officials say cooler, rainy spring weather is partly the reason.

However, a stretch of dry weather caused a shift in July. Permit sales for the month of July alone jumped by about 8 percent when compared with July 2012. Still, that wasn't enough to offset the overall decline.

"There was kind of a pent-up demand," said Pat Arndt, a DNR spokeswoman.

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Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

(218) 333-9200
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