MN Conservation Officers Patrol State Parks
July 1, 2011, 5:55 PM
LUVERNE, MN -
The government shutdown in Minnesota is expanding the job descriptions of many state workers. That's the case for the Department of Natural Resources where conservation officers have to pick up the slack for other agencies that have been shuttered.
DNR conservation officers are considered essential personnel, so they have to show up for work during the shutdown. Their double-duty now includes keeping both motorists and state parks safe.
Krystle Jaspers' holiday weekend road trip took a detour onto the shoulder of U.S. Highway 75 north of Luverne.
"I was just driving down the road and my tire went flat, so I had to pull over," Jaspers said.
Conservation officer Jim Robinson and his dog Daisy just happened to be driving into the Blue Mounds State Park entrance.
"I noticed there was a young woman with a couple of kids in the back that had a flat tire," Robinson said.
So Robinson changed the flat.
"I was going to change it myself, but thankfully, DNR showed up to help me change it, since I have an infant in the car, it's a little harder to do," Jaspers said.
With the spare tire in place, the Jaspers were back on the road again.
"Usually, you think of state troopers helping you out, but DNR's great," Jaspers said.
"She's on her way to enjoy the weekend and had a rough start to it, so, just glad that I could help with that," Robinson said.
Minnesota's budget impasse has forced Robinson into a quick-change artist. One moment, he's responding to a roadside emergency. The next, he's conducting a security check at Blue Mounds State Park, vacated by the the shutdown.
"We just try to get the job done. So, if we need to spend a couple of times there a day, then we'll do that. If we need to be there ten times a day, we'll do that," Robinson said.
Robinson says the extra time he spends checking on the empty state parks will not likely detract from his main duties of law enforcement.
"We always are going to take care of public safety issues and natural resources issues. The main difference is now that we need to be caretakers of these closed facilities," Robinson said.
Despite the uncertainty over Minnesota's fiscal future, motorists in the state can be certain of still getting help when they need it.
"This state shutdown is horrible for everyone, but I'm glad they'll be able to keep some people on board, yet," Jaspers said.
Robinson's patrols also take him to Split Rock Creek State Park south of Pipestone, as well as Shetek State Park near Slayton.
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