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More state park closures are likely if people don't follow social distancing rules

DNR waiving need for recreation passport at all state parks during COVID-19 outbreak
Posted at 6:34 PM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 18:34:56-04

LAINSBURG, Mich. — As spring continues to warm up, more and more people are heading outdoors to take advantage of some much needed fresh air.

But the DNR is already seeing a lack of social distancing at some state parks.

The DNR has already had to close the Tippy Dam Recreation Area in Northern Michigan this week due to improper social distancing and people traveling long distances to visit popular parks.

And if this continues, authorities tell FOX 47, more closures are likely.

"If people don't heed the warnings, this could lead to closing spots or the area all together," said Ron Olson, the Parks and Recreation Chief.

Something that local fishermen hope it never comes too.

"This is our one line of decompression, this is how we get out of the house, let our minds go back to a good place and when we are shut up, it's not good for anybody," said Lansing fisherman, Ed Henley.

Tippy Dam and other popular fishing areas have seen a drastic increase in visitors, including people from all areas of the state.

This type of long distance, nonessential travel, the DNR says could unintentionally increase the spread of COVID-19.

"When you do that, you expose yourself and others to things such as stopping at gas stations and stuff like that," explained Olson. "We are saying if you want to go outside, go to someplace nearby."

But even at nearby state parks, like Sleep Hollow, the DNR says they're seeing groups of people at trail heads.

"There are gatherings of people simply because it's closer to the metro Lansing area," said Olsen. "People that park their cars that get ready to go hiking or biking or something and that creates this congregation."

Local fishermen and DNR are also concerned at overcrowding at boat launches.

"You're not going to do a six foot distancing when you are trying to load two boats at the same time. It's not going to work," said Henley.

"Once they are on the water it's fine, but it's that activity to gather while you wait, so we are telling people just stay in your car, take your turn and wait it out," said Olson.

DNR law enforcement will be patrolling recreational areas in marked and unmarked cars to enforce social distancing.

"When there continues to be non-compliance occurring, we are going to have to take some sort of action because at the end of the day, our concern is the public's health, safety, and welfare and our employees too," said Gary Hagler, the Chief of DNR Law Enforcement.

The DNR doesn't want to discourage people from visiting these state parks, but to just use common sense when out here.

Keep that 6 feet distance, wait for trails and boat launches to clear up, and to clean up after yourself.

Anyone not following the social-distancing requirement may face misdemeanor violation.

During this pandemic, state park admission fees have been waived.

Click here for update information on state-managed land in Michigan.

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