Local state park ready to offer new camping option
Monday, June 30, 2014 4:28 AM
Not a primitive camper?
Five new cabins are nestled together in Forestville-Mystery Cave State Park and will offer another alternative for camping in the area. Aeric Fontenello is shown on the steps of one of the cabins that will open soon in the park. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
Nothing else in southeast Minnesota in which to resort?
Forestville's your new favorite, complete with a "Cadillac."
"For years, the southern parks have been fending off requests for cabins," said Forestville-Mystery Cave State Park head naturalist Mark White, "and up north, there are cabins at places like Itasca, and there are resorts everywhere where people can go, but down here in Bluff Country, there never were resorts."
White explained he used to work at Whitewater State Park near St. Charles that had several old Civilian Conservation Corps cabins.
"Whitewater is still getting requests for camper cabins and they've been wildly popular and a lot more are going up up north, so when they [the state Department of Natural Resources] started siting cabins, I got out my map and showed them. I think that prompted them to look at Forestville," he added.
For the past year, construction of camper cabins has been underway in a glade just off the road to the primitive group camp, a much-anticipated collection of five snug little brown abodes equipped for year-round camping, offering an alternative to early spring tenting, mid-summer monsoons and late fall freezing temperatures.
Now that they're poised to open soon, White is pleased to present them to the people who've been asking for them all these years.
He explained their amenities.
"The cabins are designed for camping - there's no full housekeeping - so they're basically for sleeping, for staying dry when it's raining," he said. "They're designed for five to six people...the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliant cabins sleep five people, but the regular ones sleep six."
White said campers have a picnic table and fire pit outside and there's a screen porch on the front of the cabin.
"There's no furniture other than the bunks and a couple benches, so people will still want to bring their lawn chairs, and the only cooking they can do is use appliances, like if they want to bring a coffee pot or a Crockpot, but they can still fry their fish outside, roast their marshmallows over the fire."
White cited the cabins' not-too-close proximity to one another as a benefit.
"That's one reason we picked that site. The cabins are spaced nicely...about 120 feet apart and snugged into the trees like they were meant to be there," he said. "The idea is to provide privacy to campers and let them get back to nature."
Beyond the serenity of the view and the privacy of the cabins' distance from the road, or camping away from the long, bus-sized RVs other campers might prefer, cabin campers can take advantage of what White describes as "the Cadillac of outdoor vault toilets" or they can make the trek to the modern showers and bathrooms in the adjacent campground.
Cabin renters must know in advance that there's no front-door parking and unpacking. Instead, they're to park in the nearby parking lot provided, then use carts to carry their kitchen and sleeping goods to the cabins.
"You can't drive up and park at the cabins," White said. "There are carts to load into, wagons that help you get your stuff down the trail some. It's not real far, not a horrible trip for hauling stuff. It's just far enough to get the feel of being away from the crowd and enjoying the outdoors. They blend in so well".
White said he has always loved the idea of cabins. "I think they're a very good investment, especially since state budgets have been shrinking and it's not very often that there's something that actually pays for itself," he added.
He feels by the time the cabins are open and reservations are booked, there'll be some serious competition for them.
"I figure that next year, by the time Memorial [Day] weekend comes around, they'll be full and people will want to consider making reservations for the middle of the week," White predicted. "We're so excited about this. The cabins are named for critters and plants in the park, and the one I like is Pine, which has a neat view and is tucked into the woods."
Forestville-Mystery Cave is already a very popular park, and White noted that he, the local man in charge, keeps making discoveries each and every day while the cabins are being finished and he's doing general park maintenance.
"There's a lot of charm here. It's the neatest park, and some of the neatest parts of the park are off the trails...I'm still finding things every day," he concluded.
For more information on Forestville-Mystery Cave's new camper cabins, call (507) 352-5111.