Twin Cities residents worried about gasoline prices pushing past $4 per gallon this summer might take a look at camping and fishing closer to home.

Three Rivers Park District will open its campground reservation system on March 12 for those seeking spots to park their RVs and pitch their tents.

"We anticipate this year to be a busy one," said park district spokesman Tom Knisely. "Whenever gas prices spike we get a lot of people making reservations who want to save some money and stay close to home."

The system has three campgrounds: at Baker Park Reserve in Maple Plain, Carver Park Reserve in Victoria, and Cleary Lake Regional Park in Prior Lake.

Bruce Bolduan, park operations supervisor at Baker Park Reserve, said that even without high gas prices, the campgrounds have seen increased demand in recent years because the weak economy has sent people searching for bargain vacations.

Baker Campground has 204 campsites, about half of them with electricity, said Bolduan, and they're all filled during most summer weekends.

Unlike state parks, which sometimes leave some places open for same-day registration, Bolduan said the Three Rivers system will fill all of its sites through reservations if the demand is there. That means sometimes turning away same-day arrivals.

Weekdays have greater availability, he said, and the park system is offering a "midweek-end" special to attract more campers on those days.

Camping fees at Baker range between $17 and $25 per night, plus tax, depending on whether the campsite has electricity.

Camping season in the three parks opens April 27 and closes in late October.

Lake Auburn Campground in Carver Park Reserve has 57 sites in a more rustic setting.

Cleary Lake features tent-only camping at the five-site Red Pine Hike-In Campground, and will open the new 15-site Basswood Hike-In Campground this season.

Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388