Beginning this year, the Upper Sioux Agency State Park (USASP) has gone from full-season to long season camping, and in conjunction with the change the park recently welcomed new Assistant Manager Nick Bartels to the staff.
Bartels joined the park on October 4 following the departure of 22 year USASP Manager Terri Dinesen, who is now stationed in Lac qui Parle after being named Manager of Big Stone, Lac qui Parle and Upper Sioux Agency State Parks in June.
The 27-year-old Bartels had been employed at the Buffalo River State Park, located between Fargo and North Lakes, for six seasons as a technician and building and grounds worker. As USASP Assistant Manager, he will be in charge of overseeing day-to-day operations, revolving around everything from resource management, historical interpretation and community outreach to camping, hiking and horseback riding opportunities.
“It’s a change of scenery from being up north there, but the community seems very nice and the location is great,” he said. “The rich history of the area is really a big draw for me.”
Bartels presently continues to reside in the Fargo area where he lives with his wife, Holly, a nurse. The pair just celebrated the birth of their first child, Elijah, in March and are planning to relocate to the Granite Falls area sometime next year given that Bartels’ seasonal position ceases at the end of October and doesn’t pick up again until next April.
Originally from Fisher, Minnesota, Bartels graduated from the local high school before enrolling at North Dakota State University. There, he flirted with majors in environmental studies and engineering before his time working at Buffalo Ridge as a building and grounds worker encouraged him to pursue and realize a major in Natural Resource Management.
Bartels said that he sought the USASP assistant manager post as a natural career step, and at some point down the line he’d like to end up managing a park of his own. With Upper Sioux Agency now seasonal, it would suggest that Bartels’ time in Granite Falls area will be only temporary as he awaits the opportunity to be cast in a full time role.
Whatever the circumstances, the 27-year-old is set to make the most of his time here, and should Upper Sioux become a full-time destination again he suggested that he would jump at the chance to make the area his home. Already he has begun to integrate himself into the community attending Sting football games, and Dinesen noted that during his first day at the park Bartels brought the park staff donuts from Carl’s Bakery.
“I’m sure once I get settled in there will be lots of things I’ll fall in love with,” he said. “So far all the people I have met have been great and that’s usually the number one thing with a new job is getting the chance to meet some different people,” he said.
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The change from full season to long season camping comes about as a result of cost cutting measures instituted by the Minnesota DNR throughout the entirety of the park system. Up until recently the already bare bones makeup of Upper Sioux Agency had allowed the local institution to largely avoid such cuts, but the state-wide push to consolidate management finally caught up with the Minnesota River Valley park this summer.
For Big Stone, Lac qui Parle and Upper Sioux this means that the former four managers in charge of the parks have been reduced to one full-time manager, two seasonal managers and a specialist. It also means that many of the park’s winter amenities will no longer be available, or at least with the same level of convenience.
According to Dinesen, many of the details are still being worked out but locals can expect to see the end of winter time camping, the closure of the Visitor’s Center beginning in mid-November and ski and snowmobile trails that are no longer groomed by park staff.
Dinesen said that interested individuals may continue to use the park trails, and should a local outfit want to go the extra mile and groom trails, it would be welcomed.
As for the sled hill, Dinesen did say that the park will see to it that the Visitor Center parking lot is plowed allowing access to the site year-round.
Finally, camping will remain open at the park, even without staff on duty, as long as the weather allows for safe passage to and from the campgrounds. Once, or if, heavy snowfall arrives, however, the gates will be closed.