MINOT, N.D. -- "I don't want to leave, Daddy."
Those were the words of my 4-year-old son, Cooper. He and I were in the process of packing up our tent on a recent Sunday after a weekend at Lake Metigoshe State Park.
Though it's more accurate to say that I was packing up the tent, and Cooper was racing up and down the campsite and demanding I time him.
He's told me he's faster than Sonic the Hedgehog, though not quite as fast as The Flash. He's working on it. My job, even as I endeavored to wrestle a tent into a bag that suddenly seemed designed not to hold it, was to provide a vocal count measuring stick for his progress toward that goal.
The plea to stay at the camp came abruptly. As if it had suddenly dawned on him that the fun was coming to an end.
"If we don't leave, we can't come back," I told him.
He chewed on that and begrudged me the point. "Fine, OK," he said, then raced off.
My kids love camping, and I love that they love camping because I love it, too, but I'm convinced a large part of the reason I've been successful at selling the joys of the outdoors to them is North Dakota's state parks.
They are a marvel. Their natural charms are some of our state's most valuable resources. But that charm is enhanced by the people.
Competent people who keep our parks and their facilities clean and in good repair.
Friendly people who never seem to tire of handling the requests of often flustered campers.
Passionate people who, at least in my experience, seem more than willing to go out of their way to make the experience of visiting one of our parks special.
I've yet to have an interaction with a state park ranger that wasn't helpful.
Lake Metigoshe was a first for my family. We'd never camped there before. Our preferred location is Cross Ranch State Park, on the west bank of the Missouri River near Washburn. But our trip was impromptu, and I wasn't able to reserve a spot at Cross Ranch, but I was able to book the last tent site available at Metigoshe, so away we went.
It was a decision we could make with confidence because it doesn't matter which of the state parks you choose, you're almost certainly going to have a good experience.
Maybe that's how it is in other states, too. All I can speak to is my experience in North Dakota, and it's been nothing but positive.
We are blessed to live in this state, which is rich in both natural beauty and history, but those things wouldn't be as accessible and enjoyable as they are without our state parks system and its roster of dedicated people.
They deserve our thanks and our support.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.