Reporting Bill Hudson
ELK RIVER, Minn. (WCCO) – People have been camping under its tall trees and scenic river views for more than 40 years. But the days could be numbered for a private campground in Elk River.
The Elk River City Council decided Monday night to take away the liquor license for the Wapiti Park Campground located about a mile west of town on the Elk River.
The campground operates under both state and local licenses. State law says it’s intended for recreational camping. But the city says that’s not the case, claiming many of its campers actually live year round.
Rusty Welton calls the campground his piece of paradise. Under the tall cottonwood trees on the banks of the lazy Elk River, Wapiti Park Campground is his summer home and where he’s lived for five years.
For some of his neighbors, it’s their only home.
“But as far as I’m concerned the city council, they should just hey, leave things be, ya know. She’s been here for 40 years,” said Welton.
Wapiti Park has been in Nita Glenn’s family since 1973. But for the past year, she’s been battling the city over renewal of her operating permits.
Even though she’s licensed by the state, the city says the campground violates local codes. Its septic system is questionable and many campers and their RVs appear to be permanent.
“I believe that if you’re licensed for 12 months out of the year, I believe I can run the business 12 months out of the year,” said Glenn, the park’s manager.
Hundreds have signed petitions supporting the campground. But with serious compliance issues unresolved, it appears more likely that the city will ask campers to pull up stakes.
It’s a balancing act between recreation and economic reality.
The campground has filed suit against the city for denying the use permit. The Elk River City Council and city attorney were locked behind closed doors on Monday night discussing the suit.
The council chose to postpone voting on whether or not to renew the conditional use permit, first extending the public comment period until July 11. A week later, on July 18, the council plans to vote on whether or not to extend the conditional use permit. Denial thereof would, essentially, cause Wapiti to close its doors.