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State parks campgrounds to stay closed through June 21

Bewabic State Park, west of Crystal Falls, is among the state campgrounds in Michigan that will remain closed through June 21.

LANSING — To help slow the spread of the coronavirus and carry out Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s extended “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order through May 15, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has updated expected opening dates and available amenities at many of its public outdoor recreation sites and facilities.

Most state parks and recreation areas and state-managed trails and boating access sites remain open to provide local opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, but social distancing is key. Federal and state health officials consistently have said that keeping at least 6 feet away from those outside your household is vital to containing the virus spread.

Proposed facility reopening dates are based on the updated stay-at-home executive order that ends May 15 and are staggered to allow for proper preparation. Details on closures and changes in services, as well as frequently asked questions, are available on the DNR’s COVID-19 response webpage at Michigan.gov/DNR.

All Michigan state parks campgrounds, overnight lodging facilities and shelters are closed through at least June 21, along with sanitation stations. Dispersed camping on public lands is closed through at least May 15 and all Michigan state forest campgrounds are closed through at least June 9.

Ron Olson, chief of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division, said he and his staff are eager to welcome back campers and visitors, but proper safety precautions and maintenance work must happen first.

“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,” Olson said.

The changes and planned public opening dates include several considerations, but further changes to the executive order could affect these plans.

To prepare state-managed parks, trails and boating facilities, many important tasks must be completed once nonessential work is permitted. The department anticipates staff can start work May 15 once the stay-at-home order is lifted; prep work is expected to take roughly five weeks. Duties include: acquiring drinking water permits from county health departments; opening bathrooms; hiring and training seasonal staff; ensuring sanitation systems are running efficiently.

Camping, overnight lodging and shelters are set to open June 22. Camping and overnight lodging reservations for dates between May 15 and June 21 have been canceled, but the following reimbursement options are available:

— Request to change reservation dates to later in the season (pending availability within the reservation booking window) and earn a free night for that time period. No reservation fees or cancellation/modification fees will be charged. Reservation holders who want this option must contact the call center at 1-800-447-2757 by May 15 at 8 p.m.

— Choose a full refund to automatically be applied to original payment method, including the reservation fee. Reservation holders do not need to take any action; all remaining reservations will automatically be canceled after May 15, and an email will be sent when the refund is completed. No cancellation/modification fees will be charged.

–Reservation holders whose camping reservations for stays between March 23 and May 15 were canceled due to COVID-19 are eligible for a free night of camping on reservations made later in the season. Those who want to make a reservation or have already booked one for a later date should call 1-800-447-2757 by May 15 at 8 p.m. and have their canceled booking number handy.

— Please note, reservations extending beyond June 21 will be changed to a June 22 arrival date and canceled nights will automatically be refunded to the original payment method.

— Shelter reservations between May 15 and June 21 will automatically be canceled. Reservation holders for those dates will receive full refunds to the original payment method, including the reservation fee paid at the time reservations were made. No cancellation/modification fees will be charged. Questions can be directed to the reservation call center at 1-800-447-2757.

State forest campgrounds and DNR-operated harbors are set to open June 10. The DNR will extend closures in state forest campgrounds and DNR-operated harbors through at least June 9, allowing for additional time to prepare for public reopening.

Reservations for dates between May 15 and June 9 will automatically be canceled after May 15 for a full refund to the original payment method, unless a customer calls the call center at 1-800-447-2757 by May 15 at 8 p.m. to request a reservation be changed to a later date as outlined above, including one free night.

DNR-managed boating access sites that already were open for the season and remained open during the stay-at-home order will remain open. The addition of various amenities, such as the placement of courtesy piers and the reopening of bathrooms at boating access sites, will begin as staff time and maintenance schedules allow.

The most recent stay-at-home order specifies that boating, including motorized, is allowed, but people from different households are strongly encouraged to practice social distancing and stay at least 6 feet apart.

Bathroom buildings and hand-washing stations are closed through at least June 3, although those facilities associated with campgrounds will remain closed until the campground opens. Trash service also has been halted during the same time frame; please leave the sites as you found them. Bring bags to carry out any trash with you.

Dispersed camping on approved state-managed lands is not permitted until at least May 15.

In order to minimize face-to-face interactions and the exchange of money, the Recreation Passport requirement for vehicle entry to state parks and recreation areas, state forest campgrounds and state-managed boating access sites has been suspended until at least two weeks after the stay-at-home order ends.

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