By Jessica Mathews / email@example.com
Livingston County residents and others planning to spend some time at state parks or camping this holiday weekend will notice some changes due to COVID-19 but there are still ample opportunities to make memories across Michigan.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently re-opened state parks, campgrounds and state-managed boating access sites with new health and safety protocols in place. Chief of Parks & Recreation Ron Olson says most parks and campgrounds are open and a lot of amenities such as restroom and shower facilities are back open. He says they’re gradually getting back to somewhat normal but still have requirements such as social distancing and wearing masks in indoor areas. Olson tells WHMI if people are coming to visit a park and plan to recreate or camp, they should be prepared to take some safety precautions. Olson says people should come prepared and be mindful of common protocols and bring sanitizing supplies and PPE but also not visit if they are ill or don’t feel well. He also asks that people be patient when waiting to go on a trailhead or into a restroom facility or common areas and let other people move out of the way.
Olson reminds anyone planning to be out on the Great Lakes that high water levels have reduced beach space. On big lake beaches, particularly Lake Michigan, Olson says they are trying to very much compel people to pay attention to normal safety precautions. Olson says when red flags are flying – don’t go in the water. He says there are a lot of issues with rip currents and other things and while people like the big waves, they can create some real treacherous situations – even wading around. Olson says they just ask people to be mindful of the signage they provide and heed red flag warnings, even the yellow-medium range – adding water is still on the cold side. Olson says people should just pay attention and make sure to not swim in areas they’re not supposed to like off breakwalls and other areas that may seem fun but that’s where most of their accidents have occurred.
Meanwhile for those looking to remain on land, Olson said they’ve seen a very large increase of people wanting to ride on off road trails and routine maintenance has been taking place. He says they ask riders to be patient and not forget safety protocols or speed and communicate effectively if they come upon certain situations. Olson says they ask that riders not wander off trails or if they’re waiting at a trailhead to be patient and give people space.
Recreation passports are required again to enter state parks. For those wanting to embark on a last minute trip and visit an area, Olson suggests checking current information on the MDNR website. He noted almost 95% of available camping and lodging opportunities are occupied over the holiday weekend. Olson noted they are still in process of ramping up and some parks still have construction projects that were paused in the spring and aren’t done yet. He says re-starts in some parks haven’t occurred yet and some parks have flooded campsites due to high water. Olson said there are almost 4000 camp nights that will be affected by not being able to utilize certain campground sites because of those issues. He says they’re hoping water levels drop and once they get back in action and get projects completed those will be re-opening.