In this photo taken on July 29, 2014, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area manager Steve Weber holds a pole used to raise or lower the ceiling hatch in one of three yurts under construction at the SRAís Yawkey Unit, just north of Crosby, Minn. Four screened windows plus a screen in the door will catch the breeze. Woodstoves will make the structures habitable year-round. (AP Photo/St. Cloud Times, William Camargo) ORG XMIT: MIN2014081613570726
CROSBY, Minn. — Minnesota officials are planning to offer yurts as new shelters for campers looking for a different state park experience.
The state Department of Natural Resources will open the shelters in September as part of a pilot program, the St. Cloud Times reports (http://on.sctimes.com/1t1G5xH ) reported. Three yurts at Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area and two each at Glendalough and Afton state parks will be equipped with woodstoves for year-round use. The dwellings look like a cross between a tent and a tepee and have traditionally been used for shelter in places like Mongolia.
"There's a little sense of adventure, the sense that you're out a little bit farther than just any state park," said Peter Hark, the department's operations manager for parks and trails. "All three of these sites were picked because you can't just drive right to them."
Hark said visitors can hike, bike or paddle to the sites. Cuyuna will offer three 20-foot yurts next to Yawkey Mine Lake and a challenging mountain bike trail. Visitors at Glendalough can paddle up the yurts via Annie Battle Lake or take a new trail.
Although reservations aren't yet open, the department estimated the yurts will cost about $45 to $65, the same to rent as state park camper cabins. The department hopes the yurts will attract new groups to the outdoor areas.
The shelters, made by Colorado Yurt Co., cost $13,000 each for the structures themselves. The pilot program's total cost so far is nearly $570,000 with amenities, including vault toilets, cooking shelters and wells.
Each yurt will likely be named something reminiscent of the iron ore mining industry.
Hark said the department ultimately wants to create unforgettable experience for visitors that will keep them coming back.
People who stay at the yurts will be able to observe nature up close by listening to the calls of loons, watching hawks circle overhead, fishing for trout, swimming in the lake and enjoying numerous other recreational offerings.
After a year, Hark said the department will evaluate the yurts and decide if they should be built in other locations.
"We want to be sure we're meeting a need and creating a setting that works well," Hark said. "I think the question would be: Should we try these in more the traditional campground?"