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May 13, 2020 – Covid-19 update

5/13/2020 – This evening Minnesota Governor Tim Walz issued a new executive order that goes into effect at 11:59 pm on May 17th (found here). The bulk of the order is aimed at allowing most businesses to re-open, provided that they meet certain guidelines, have implemented a Covid-19 Preparedness Plan and only allow up to 50% of maximum capacity into the establishment.

More specifically pertaining to us at Sawbill, the State of Minnesota will allow dispersed and remote camping. Dispersed camping is defined as camping in an undeveloped location that does not contain facilities. Remote camping is defined as designated campsites that are accessible by hiking trail or watercraft. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness campsites fall under the remote camping designation. So, as far as the State is concerned, camping in the BWCA should be allowed beginning May 18. That said, the BWCA is under federal jurisdiction, therefore the Forest Service will ultimately decide when overnight use in the BWCA will be allowed. We are awaiting an update from the Forest Service.

Under this order, developed campgrounds must remain closed until at least May 31, 2020 at 11:59 pm. Again the Forest Service has the ultimate control over the Superior National Forest, so we will await guidance from them regarding the Sawbill Lake, Crescent Lake, and Temperance River Campgrounds.

The State of Minnesota is still encouraging people to stay close to home and avoid all unnecessary travel. They advise that you should be able to complete your round trip journey on one tank of gas.

To date, coping with all of these restrictions and uncertainty has been challenging for all of us. However, there has been consistency between State and Federal requirements as they pertain to our areas of business. With consistency, and the degree of predictability it brings, we’ve at least been able to stake out clear positions and decisions for how we will operate our business . This latest update appears to be the beginning to conflicting policy and we are finding ourselves between a rock and a hard place both ethically and in how to provide our core services. The continued encouragement to stay close to home raises some tricky issues for us, who, primarily serve people who do not live close by. The potential extension of the campground closures creates a complication for us and many of our customers who rely on the Sawbill Lake Campground as a launching pad to their BWCA Wilderness trip.

Whether the BWCA and Sawbill Lake, Crescent Lake, and Temperance River campgrounds will open remains at the discretion of the Forest Service, who will have to weigh many considerations with many stakeholders, and quickly. Please feel free to call or email us if you have any questions. We should know more from the Forest Service by the end of this week.

Hang with us as we continue to navigate this situation. Sawbill’s business mission is to help all people access the Wilderness in a friendly and inclusive way. Caring for our crew as if they are family is in our ethos. Looking out for our friends and neighbors in Cook County is a priority.