5/1/2020 – As we welcome the month of May and all the ephemeral transitional magic that happens this time of year, the pandemic response can be characterized in a similar way. Maybe less magic.
Yesterday, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz extended the Stay at Home order until May 17th at 11:59pm. The continuation of the Stay at Home order dictates that all non essential travel should be avoided. The provision of supplies, purchasing goods and recreating should be done as close to home as possible.
We have not heard from the Forest Service, yet, how this extended order will affect the opening of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. That said, they have made it clear to us in the past that they intend to align Superior National Forest and Wilderness restrictions with those handed down by the State of Minnesota. To that end, we expect the Wilderness closure (at least for overnight camping), to extend until May 17th at 11:59pm. We will post and update as soon as we see a new order. If no new order is issued, the Wilderness is slated to open on May 5th.
The extended Stay at Home order has been modified to allow for a slow opening of more businesses coined “Non-essential exempt businesses” beginning on May 4th. Businesses, such as retail and equipment rental (like Sawbill), may begin to operate provided that all transactions are done out of doors and maximum physical distance is maintained between staff and public. Prior to this order, we at Sawbill have already been crafting a Preparedness Plan that largely mirrors this new guidance. We are encouraged that we have been on the correct track. Stay tuned as we begin to roll these plans out to our loyal customers. It will look different here, but our core values will still be on display. Providing friendly service to all in pursuit of a Wilderness experience. The health and safety of our staff, our customers and our community is our priority. We are all going to join together in that pursuit. This Plan will be made available on our website when it’s ready.
According the the State’s order, all recreational camping is still not allowed. The Forest Service has also informed us that the camping closure on the Superior National Forest is also being extended to match the order from the State. All reservations for stays that begin before May 18th for National Forest Campgrounds, including Sawbill Lake and Crescent Lake, are going to be cancelled and refunded. If you have made a reservation already for this time period, expect a cancellation email directly from recreation.gov in the next day or two. Reservations for May 18th and beyond are still being honored at this time and new reservations can be made.
We have developed and submitted a detailed and comprehensive Covid-19 Campground Operations Plan to the Forest Service. It is in the review phase. We are confident in our Plan. It will become available on our website once it is approved.
So, the take-away is: Sawbill can technically open on May 4th to sell goods and rent canoes. However, with the Wilderness likely being closed and a Stay at Home order asking people not travel long distances, we are effectively going to remain closed. We could rent a canoe to a Cook County local to take a day trip paddle on a non-Wilderness lake. That scenario is obviously not a very large part of our business, so we’ll continue to monitor the situation, prepare for the new normal and look forward to a fantastic Wilderness paddling season when the time comes.
The Wilderness is medicine for the mind, body, and soul. Its remedy will be more important than ever in the coming months. We look forward to helping people have that experience. Hang in there everyone and we’ll see you when the time is right.