GARRISON Every park in the North Dakota State Parks system, all 13 of them, are now operating at full service. The parks became fully operational May 16, giving them two weeks of hosting campers prior to Memorial Day weekend, which is considered the traditional kick-off to summer camping and the State Parks' busiest season.
A new reservation system is being tested at two state parks. Lake Metigoshe and Fort Lincoln State Parks have opted to try a 100 percent reservation system. In past years those parks have offered half of their camping site by reservation and half first come-first served.
Larry Hagen, Lake Metigoshe State Park manager, said the volume of campers in past years led to the change.
Chad Trautman, Fort Stevenson State Park
manager, stands near perimeter fencing where the park’s new Administration and Visitor’s Center will be located. A fall completion is planned.
A few boats were in the new Fort Stevenson State Park marina earlier this week. Open slips are expected to be filled within the month.
"Because of the sheer number of people opting to get in we opted to go to the 100 percent reservation system," said Hagen. "That way people can drive here at their leisure and don't have to worry the whole way about getting a site. There will be less panic at the gate."
Hagen said the new system doesn't necessarily mean that campers who show up without a reservation won't be able to get into the park. If there is a "no show" at a reserved site it would be filled on a first come-first served basis.
However, says Hagen, "I think the Fourth of July weekend is already filled and I think there is only 13 or so left to be reserved for Memorial weekend. We're going to try it this year and go from there."
A similar 100 percent reservation system is used by South Dakota State Parks.
State Parks has issued a Camping Challenge for 2014 in an effort to get people to explore more than one State Park. To meet the challenge, campers must utilize four different State Parks before Oct. 1. The first 25 campers to meet the challenge will receive a 2015 pass to all State Parks.
Fort Stevenson State Park is known for hosting several event weekends during the summer. Their kick-off event for 2014 is the annual Sky Fest Over Sakakawea kite festival. It is scheduled for this weekend.
"We expect it to be just as big as ever," said Chad Trautman, Fort Stevenson State Park manager. "In fact, there's more professional kite flyers coming this year than last year. It looks to be another big event and an exciting event for this weekend."
According to Trautman, the park's reserved sites are fully booked for the coming weekend. One-half of the park's sites are reserved and half available first come-first served.
"If the weather is sunny I'd anticipate our first come-first served will be filled up and probably early," said Trautman. "We have a lot of people excited to get out for the season."
Fort Stevenson boasts two marinas, one in Garrison Bay and one in DeTrobriand Bay. The Garrison Bay marina is the newest and largest. All of the slips in that marina are reserved for the summer along with a number of slips already reserved in the DeTrobriand Bay marina. Trautman says the high water levels expected on Lake Sakakawea this year should make for a great summer for boaters and fishermen. He also says the public should watch for news regarding an additional event to be hosted at the park this summer.
"We're hoping to have the Skinatiques from Metigoshe come down here and put on a show," said Trautman. "We'll see if that pans out. We should know for sure in the next week or two. We always try to host a number of special events and provide a place to go and relax."
Trautman encourages anyone who has not stayed at a state park to come out and see the facilities. At Fort Stevenson those facilities will be getting a boost this summer as a new Administration and Visitor's Center begins to take shape. Ground was broken recently on the construction project that is expected to be completed by late fall. The new center will be located at the entrance to the park.
"It'll be a much better lobby for visitors than what we now have in the shop," said Trautman.