MICHIGAN (WJMN) – State park campgrounds opened Monday, June 22 for a late start to the camping season. Ron Olson, Chief of Parks and Recreation at the DNR, said the campgrounds were nearly full for the weekend of July 27 and 28.
“The first weekend we were approaching about 90% occupancy which is strong for the month for that particular weekend,” said Olson.
The weekend of July 4, campgrounds are reserved at 94% of capacity and the DNR expects to see more last-minute trips planned. Due to rescheduling and reservation cancellations, data for summer reservations isn’t indicative of how busy the state campgrounds will be this summer. Olson expects them to be as busy as normal but show fewer campers because a number of sites are still closed for work.
“Right now as things are picking up we expect us to have a very strong rest of the season and into the fall,” said Olson “It’s a little early to tell what that might look like but the reservations so far going out into the weeks is pretty strong right now.”
Recreation Passport sales don’t reflect the increased use of state-managed land because they weren’t required until June 22. However, Olson says the DNR has noticed an increase in traffic at boat launches and day-use areas in the past few months.
“The number of people we’re seeing in parks in the day use has escalated very vividly, simply because we know people are wanting to get outdoors,” said Olson.
Sales of fishing licenses and ORV licenses are up though, 107,271 fishing licenses sold this year so far were to new customers. Sales for ORV licenses saw a 17.5% increase totaling 163,968 licenses while trail use permits increased by 25.9% totaling 128,756 sold between January and the end of May.
Olson attributes the increase to COVID-19 but notes that their numbers have been increasing for the past few years.
“I think that people were seeking outlets to get out of the house,” said Olson. “We did notice that people were going out even on marginal weather days we saw crowds of people that were larger than normal.”
The DNR website lists its guidelines for safely utilizing these areas during the COVID-19 outbreak. Olson says that bringing a mask and giving people space are two key actions people should be taking. He also pointed out other safety guidelines not related to the pandemic. Olson says to take caution on lakes, especially the larger ones where water is at a higher level than normal and reminds people to pack bug spray.
“It’s exciting to get out and do things but also to do it right and make sure that now that this COVID situation is a whole other layer of requirements you need to keep being mindful of,” said Olson.
To find more information on recreating in one of Michigan’s state parks or campgrounds visit www.mighigan.gov/dnr.