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Stay Home, Stay Safe order extension pushes back reopening of campgrounds

Posted at 7:21 PM, May 08, 2020

HILLSDALE, Mich. — Now that the governor's Stay Home, Stay Safe order has been extended from May 15 to May 28, these campsites at Gateway Park Campground will remain empty through Memorial Day, one of the biggest weekends of the year for the campground.

"Our Memorial Day camping is booked a year in advance, canceling our Memorial Day weekend right now is devastating," said Tim and Michelle Wilcox, Gateway Park Owners.

Gateway Park plans to reopen after May 28, shortening their already quick summer season.

"That just really did us in," said Tim.

"Our budget is dependent on our revenue like we don't have a backup," said Michelle.

Under The Stay Home, Stay Safe order, private campground must restrict operations but are free to open once the order is lifted.

"The DNR doesn't have the jurisdiction over private campgrounds obviously so that's under their own decision to exactly when to reopen," explained John Pepin, a DNR Deputy Public Information Officer.

The DNR says planning and logistics played a key role in their decision to re-open state campgrounds on June 22.

"There are a lot of duties that we will have to do to prepare facilities, have staff up and running, and make sure we have proper procedures in place so that's why we are reopening later than some of the smaller private campgrounds," said Pepin.

Many argue that camping is the perfect way to social distance, but the DNR says camping can sometimes lead to congregating.

"People like to camp together and congregate in campgrounds where sites are closer together," said Pepin. "Plus it's not really a physical activity in the sense of hiking and biking or walking which are the main things we are trying to promote right now."

Which is why the next time you go camping, you should expect some changes.

"We are planning to patrol the park and make sure people are social distancing," said Michelle.

Both Gateway Park and the DNR say that their campground reopening dates are subject to change depending on the course of the pandemic.

Although campgrounds are closed, State Parks remain open to the public.

However, there have been some concerns about crowds in popular locations like Grand Haven and Belle Isle.

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