New funds for Minnesota parks and trails raises hopes for improving Lakeview Campground in Sibley State Park

Jun. 9—NEW LONDON

— Tom Hubble made his first camping trip to the Lakeview Campground in Sibley State Park with his parents, sometime in the 1970s.

For the past 35 years or so, Tom and his wife, Peggy, have returned to the campground every summer, except for when it was closed due to the pandemic. They remember their son taking his first steps here.

Next year might be different. There is a possibility the campground will be completely rebuilt in the coming year and its sites closed for the 2024 season. If that happens, the campers from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, will be among the many who help make this one of the most popular campgrounds in the state park system who will be displaced in the coming year.

The 2023 Legislature approved funding to make possible projects in state parks, trails and at public accesses across the state. The Lakeview Campground is among development projects being considered, according to Erik Wrede, development consultant for Parks and Trails in the

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

.

In an email to the West Central Tribune, he cautions that it is still a bit early in the planning, design and budgeting process for Lakeview Campground.

The

Parks and Trails

division is currently in the process of prioritizing the multiple development projects statewide proposed for state parks, trails and public water accesses. Some of the initial prioritization will happen by July 1, the start of the state's fiscal year. It will also continue in the following months, according to Wrede.

Wrede stated that he is not sure where Lakeview Campground sits in this mix. He doesn't think anyone has that clearly defined yet.

The Minnesota Parks and Trails Council reported that

Sibley State Park

, located in rural New London, was listed among the priority parks for campground improvements in the Minnesota DNR's request to the Legislature for funding this past session.

Improving Lakeside Campground has been a longstanding goal for the park: It was frequently raised by participants in the process for developing the park's master plan adopted in 2012. Crowding was the main concern cited.

The Hubbles are among those who agree the campground can be crowded. The 132-site campground sees 100 percent occupancy on the weekends through much of the summer, and sometimes on weekdays as well, according to Jonah Moline, natural resources supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' division of Parks and Trails.

Many of the campers are like the Hubbles. The campground enjoys a lot of loyalty by campers who return year after after year, according to Moline.

In fact, many of the campers return roughly at the same time of the year. The Hubbles said they've gotten to know many of their camper neighbors, since they see them each summer on the same weekends.

Lakeview Campground was built for a time before today's large recreational vehicles and campers became the norm. Accessibility is a challenge.

Moline said the initial plans for a rebuild call for a reduction in the number of campsites in the campground. It's a matter of "quality over quantity," he said.

He said a new layout for the campground will aim to provide more space, improved accessibility, and more updated features, such as 50-amp electric service.

One of the needs is aimed at maintenance of the historic buildings in the campground. There are roofs that need to be improved. The historic structures were built in the 1930s by the Veterans Conservation Corps. Any work on the buildings would require maintaining their historic and architectural integrity, according to Moline.

He said one of the hopes is to move the campground's dump station to a new location, possibly along County Road 48 on the west side of the park.

If the campground is among those chosen for funding this year, groundbreaking on the project could occur after the camping season this fall. If so, the campground would be closed through 2024 with expectations for an opening for the 2025 camping season.

There have been improvements made to the campground through the years, but no major rebuild as is now hoped. Dave Lais, who served as park manager from 1972 to 2001, said he does not recall any major rebuild to the popular campground. There have been various projects, from work to address erosion issues to upgrading some of the electrical sites.

The Hubbles said they are happy to see the plans for the rebuild, even if it disrupts their camping plans for next year. If that's the case, they said they will try out the Oak Ridge Campground for their annual camping trip to Sibley State Park next year. They've fallen in love with the park over these years, and said they can't image a summer without a camping trip to it.

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