Several state parks to offer maple syrup programs

The maple sap is ready to run and several Minnesota state parks are offering programs in syrup making.

Maple sap runs best when daytime temperatures are in the high 30s to mid-40s and overnight temperatures are below freezing. In Minnesota, that’s typically from about March 15 through April 20.

Most of the park programs will be held at Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul, Whitewater State Park in Winona County and Wild River State Park in Chisago County. Other locations are offering less-frequent programs.

For a complete list, visit



Shipping fans to guess arrival of first ‘saltie’

With a couple of free stays in Duluth on the line, fans of the harbor shipping industry are invited to guess the exact time and date that this year’s first oceangoing “saltie” will slide under the Aerial Lift Bridge.

The annual First Ship contest, sponsored by Visit Duluth and the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, is open through March 25 at

Both the first- and second-place prizes include a night of lodging in Duluth, a gift card to a local restaurant and two passes to area attractions. Competition will be tough: Last year, the first saltie reached Duluth at 5:32 p.m. on April 2. A record 2,700 people entered the contest and the winner guessed within 2 minutes.

Pam Louwagie


Men in kidnapping case sent to different jails

Three men accused of kidnapping a 15-year-old Alexandria girl and holding her captive for 29 days last summer have been separated and placed in different county jails.

Thomas Jay Barker, 32, of Carlos, Minn., was moved to Meeker County on Jan. 9 and his court hearing this month was postponed to April 10. Steven Michael Samuel Powers, 20, of Benson, Minn., was moved to Otter Tail County jail, while the third man, Joshua Lee Holby, 31, also of Carlos, is in Douglas County jail. Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen said the moves were made for their safety and to keep the inmates apart.

All three were charged in September with kidnapping and false imprisonment. Barker and Powers also were charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and Barker faces an additional count of second-degree assault.

According to the criminal complaint, Barker used zip ties to restrain the girl in August and for most of 29 days, she was held in a closet in his bedroom, fed fast food and water, and repeatedly sexually assaulted, she told police. The men later took her to an abandoned house about 30 miles away, where she escaped, swam across a lake and ran through a field before reaching a farmer for help.

Last fall, Alexandria police offered the farmer a $7,000 reward for helping rescue her, but he gave the money to the girl’s family.

Barker’s attorney, Justin Braulick, has said his client’s story is “significantly different” from what was reported by police and that the criminal complaint is not accurate.