MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesotans are eagerly making plans for a summer they’re hoping is closer to normal — but getting your spot for outdoor activities could already be a challenge.

WCCO spoke with Mindy Fredrikson, co-owner of Gunflint Lodge and Outfitters in Grand Marais near the Boundary Waters.

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“If you want to get reservations any place on the North Shore or in northern Minnesota for the summer, you should be making your reservations now,” Fredrikson said.

She says 2021 is shaping up to be one of the resort’s busiest summers yet.

“People are very anxious I think to travel … traveling in the wilderness, traveling to the outdoors, trips that are within driving distance are all very popular,” she said.

A full Gunflint means about 140 people in dozens of cabins, and Fredrikson says they will be close to 100% occupancy this season.

(credit: CBS)

Outdoor activities proved to be popular even last summer because it’s one of the safer things people can do. Still, Tom Brown’s business is looking to bounce back after being down 40% last year. He owns the Minneapolis Southwest KOA Campground in Jordan.

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“We’ve got lots of room yet, but at the same time we have some sites that are full all the way to the end of the summer,” Brown said.

He says it’s a little emotional lift every time the phone rings for a new reservation. He was reluctant to even invite WCCO here because of all the work that needs to be done before the late April opening. The sticks will be picked up, gravel will be added and smoothed over, and the grass will be a lot greener than it is today.

John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota, says the leisure segment is going to be the first to come back.

“People, you know, that just want to get out in smaller groups of families and friends,” Edman said.

He says it’s a sorely-needed bounce back.

“If you’re thinking about checking out a part of the state you haven’t seen before, start making your plans today,” Edman said.

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Explore Minnesota says the state’s tourism industry lost $7 billion in sales last year.

David Schuman