By 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.

Comments (21)
  1. Bob says:

    Just wondering here, where does all their wastw go?? Most campers toliets have to be dumped. Just wondering how you do this if you are living in it full time. From the looks of it looks like some of these “campers’ Have not been moved in a long time. Bunch of these have a deck built on them and a car port. This is a camp ground not a mobil home park. There IS a difference.

    1. Tony says:

      They’re known as “full hookups”- the waste goes thru underground pipes into the existing septic sysem- it’s just not up to current codes….did you think it was going into the river?

      1. Father Hennepin says:

        Ahh yes, the former modest campgrounds that used to house simple tents of families on weekends. Now they are exactly as the article states, mobile home parks. Xmas lights strung across trees, woodpiles bigger than a car, outdoor refrigerators, and from the article “the city says the campground violates local codes. Its septic system is questionable”. These trailers are trashy, whether being towed by some dirtball on the highway or parked year round on a “camp”ground. We’re turning into Mexico faster than I thought. Its been sad to see the decline.

        1. TW says:

          No habla inglais senor. Mi casa es no su casa. Vama!!

    2. TW says:

      Are you involved in this issue or serve on the city council? Likely so or you have some connection. Land Pirate!! Mobile home park…like that is a slur. Why don’t you toss the term “poor white trash” into it also?

  2. ??? says:

    What are all the violations that were in the report? Again WCCO gives some of the story but not all. If they are violating city or state laws then what is the point of the story as they seem to take the side that this should not be shut down. Please learn how to report the full story and get back to us!

    1. doubleD says:

      AMEN!! this is terribly written article.

  3. factdealer says:

    Bob every seasonal campground has many trailers with decks built on them most people leave their campers year round in these kind of parks. But no doubt there are people living here also year round, slippery slope though when its permitted as a 12month establishment.

  4. Darren says:

    Leave the small business alone. Damn Government.

    1. bickman says:

      thank you! finnally someone that understands. i have grown up visiting there. year around ive been there.

    2. What's the big deal! says:


  5. Tony says:

    Please stay on topic, Bruce!

  6. Happy Camper says:

    If the city doesn’t want to shut this campground down then why are they revokeing it’s licenses? Why won’t the city state what isn’t in compliance?

  7. Jake says:

    What does a liquor licence have to do with a campground?? Do they have a bar there, serving liquor? If not, why? If it’s about a septic system, then make the owner upgrade it or shut it down altogether.

  8. doubleD says:

    It would be interesting to know if any city council members have ties to land developers in the area or if they have looked into eminent domain.Something doesn’t sound right about this article..the citys going to shut them down and wreck a family business because of year round camping and a “questionable” septic system.These council members sound crooked.

    1. TW says:

      Yeah, well said. Prime real estate along a waterway. Makes you wonder where the pressure is coming from. Some developer sees a gold mine there and some poor schleps have their little piece of weekend or week long or year round contentment. So the septic system needs work or more frequent pumping? This is the way local gov’ts squeeze folks and they can exercise a ton of leverage to shut down improvements or cancel permits to operate. So this is like The Crucible, someone wants the land and they are tossing accusations and stirring the water to make it happen. So what if it is like a trailer park? Folks should have the freedom to live and do things that make them happy and are allowed by law…at least that is what the US constitution says last time I checked.

  9. Retired Ron says:

    This is from the “RV Review” website at … Old, poorly maintained park. Roads are dirt as are the spaces. Many longterm residents and many motorcycles and 4 wheelers. Some grass but thin. Too much bird crap everywhere to enjoy being outside. Peafowl and guineas everywhere and they are really noisy especially when about 10 of them gather under you rig and start their screeching at 6 am. WiFi is non-existent. Manager said it was working in her mother-in-law’s house but I stood under the antenna and had zero signal.

  10. Carol says:

    We stayed at the “campground” in 2010 ONLY because it was the only campground open in April in the area. As soon as there was an option we moved out! The Liquor license is a good start, because there were definite abuses of the liquor laws, as well as no smoking in public areas including the laundry, and then it was evident there was more than cigarettes being “smoked” and “used” there. I feel sorry for those people that have to call Wapiti home in the summer with the ??? septics system and guinea hens that room the campgound leaving droppings as they roam. It wiuld do Elk River a real favor to have Wapiti comply with laws and offer a favorable camping experience in a beautiful setting.

    1. Ogie Oglethorpe says:

      Guinea hens stop the tick populations. Not sure if you’re aware of that or not.

      What abuses of the liquor laws are you willing to explain in detail?

      What besides cigarettes was being “used” there?

  11. Kind of sad says:

    For many years there was such a place near Lake Phalen in view of the park in Saint Paul. It looked bad, and it was not safe. They removed all the beat up camper trailers. Some people need a cheap place to live and can live that way. I understand that, on the other hand it looked bad. I don’t think these campers will be there for long. Kind of sad.

    1. Ogie Oglethorpe says:

      How awful that regular commonfolk are allowed to camp where the privileged should have first dibs, right??

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