LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — State-managed campgrounds will remain closed until at least June 22 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources said camping and overnight lodging reservations between May 15 and June 21 have been canceled. Reservations that go beyond June 21 will changed to a June 22 arrival date and canceled nights will be automatically refunded.
“We know millions of residents are eager to return to state parks and recreation areas, and we will be here to serve them and make their visits as enjoyable as possible, but we have to open the right way and be certain that facilities and sites are clean, safe and ready to accommodate everyone,” DNR Parks and Recreation Division Chief Ron Olson said in a release.
The DNR says revenue will take a hit with the delays because the majority of the funding to maintain the parks comes from campground fees.
The department is offering people a free night of camping if they rebook and not cancel their reservation.
“There’s a likelihood that once things get going, that a lot of the vacancies later on will get booked up by other people and they will lose out completely,” Olson said.
Olson says the DNR is working to put procedures in place to protect campers and staff, but the stay-at-home order has caused delays.
“We have to staff, get our staff for the summer hired, and those have all been put on hold on a hiring freeze due to the executive orders,” Olson said.
According to Olson, many yearly preparations like getting picnic tables and bathrooms ready will not be able to start until after the stay home order is lifted.
Diane Gaertner regularly visits the Yankee Springs Recreation Area in Barry County.
She has noticed a big change compared with the park and campground a year ago.
“It’s just so quiet and normally it would be just the opposite,” Gaertner said. “There’s no trash pickup in here right now. It’s just totally different. It’s like the middle of the winter but not winter.”
The DNR said campers who had reservations will have reimbursement options.
Reservations holders can request to change the dates to later in the season and get a free night. If interested, call the reservation call center 800.447.2757 by 8 p.m. Friday, May 15.
If campers would like a full refund, the state will automatically cancel reservations after May 15 and send an email when the refund is finished.
Campers whose reservations were between March 23 and May 15 that were canceled due to COVID-19 are also eligible for a free night of camping on reservations later in the season. The state tells those who are interested should call the reservation call center by May 15 and have the canceled booking number handy.
The DNR recommends anyone with questions on closures and changes to visit its COVID-19 response webpage.