The hostel at Itasca State Park is closing Oct. 31.
Itasca owns the historic structure. Park Manager Aaron Wunrow said Hostelling International had been leasing and running it since the 1990s and decided not to release their lease.
“The park has had a great relationship with Hostelling International over the years,” Wunrow said. “It brought different types of guests and cultures into the park. We’re trying to reach out to bring in more diverse visitors. We also had local uses by Boy Scouts, hunters and a knitters’ group.”
The intent of hostels is providing an area where guests can get to know each other. “There’s a sitting area with a fireplace and a kitchen and dining area where people can gather and talk,” he said.
The hostel was one of two facilities in the park that provided lodging all year. Itasca Suites have a kitchenette and two double beds in the Douglas Lodge facility area. Winter camping is also available.
Wunrow said plans for the future of the building have not yet been determined. “We’re looking at a number of different options,” he said. “One option is to affiliate with Hostelling International. They wouldn’t run it anymore, but we’d still have that brand. We’d probably do some things differently, but we’d still have that opportunity for that broader niche of people to bring in.”
Other options being considered include remodeling the hostel to coordinate with other facilities in the park, renting it out to large groups or individualizing the rooms for a more hotel-like feel.
Wunrow added, “We’re at capacity for lodging and full seven days a week almost every week in the summer. We picked up Bert’s Cabins and that also has the potential for some winter use in the future.”
Wunrow said State Parks has a regional office and a director for consistency of operations, who would be involved in a decision about the building’s future.