Camping at Michigan State Park campgrounds to resume June 22, DNR says

Family roasting marshmallows over a campfire. (Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources said state campgrounds and recreation areas will all open on June 22.

The DNR said state park campgrounds, overnight lodging, and shelters are closed through at least June 21 but confirmed that it will open for campers on Monday, June 22.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a Stay At Home order in March, which forced campgrounds to close and halt any preparations. On Monday, she announced the lifting of the Stay At Home order.

According to the DNR, they have been working the past three weeks to get campgrounds throughout the state ready and it will take two more weeks before everything is ready, for several reasons:


Michigan laid off almost 3,000 state employees due to the COVID-19 virus and economic shutdown, including 102 park staff. That includes rangers, which has significantly slowed down pre-season work in campgrounds.

Statewide Hiring Freeze

Seasonal workers could not be hired until after May 15, when the hiring freeze was lifted for summer park workers. New seasonal applicants will need to be contacted and interviewed. In addition, both new and returning staff need to be drug tested and, since medical facilities are working in limited capacities, it likely will be more time-consuming to complete those tests.

Most of the staff are seasonal employees and training them on all camping facilities plus new efforts to sanitize and clean the grounds takes time.

"New staff will be trained on campground and equipment operations, the online reservation computer system, MIOSHA requirements, etc. Additionally, all staff must be thoroughly trained on COVID-19 safety practices," the DNR said.

Drinking Water Permits

State parks and recreation areas are required to get permits from county health departments to test drinking water. Those health departments are working on COVID-19 testing and other pandemic-related work, so the DNR anticipates water testing and results may take more time than in previous years.

Getting campgrounds and park facilities ready takes time

Generally speaking, opening campgrounds is more than simply putting an open sign out. There are essential duties including de-winterizing, cleaning sites, opening buildings, completing hazardous-tree surveys and trimming, checking electrical systems; getting sanitation systems up and running; rebuilding broken picnic tables and disinfecting public contact surfaces.

The same staff is also responsible for preparing state forest campgrounds, trail systems, boating access sites, day-use facilities, swimming beaches, playgrounds, organizational campgrounds, lodging facilities, scenic sites and state harbors.

Finishing Construction Projects

In the middle of March, many projects and improvements were brought to a standstill when the Stay-At-Home order was issued. Those still have to be completed before campers can show up.

Phasing in Camping works Best

Usually, rangers and staff phase in their maintenance work while campers slowly start to trickle in. The state expects campgrounds to be full when they open so most of that work has to be done beforehand.

Spending Freeze

There is a State of Michigan spending freeze, so parks staff will need to get permission before making large-scale purchases. The extra time it takes to order and the delay in the delivery of many products may slow the process of getting campgrounds opened.

Implementing COVID-19 regulations

Parks staff will need to implement social distancing regulations, find ways to limit contact, build sneeze guards, etc. – work that is critical in order to make parks and campgrounds accessible and safe for all guests and employees.

Dispersed camping, which is backpacking and hike-in camping, has been allowed since May 29.

The DNR said any reservations between May 15 and June 21 can be changed to later in the season or can be canceled for a full refund. If you did not call to reschedule, all reservations were automatically canceled after May 15 and an email was to have been sent when the refund is issued. 

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

Anyone with reservations that extended beyond June 21 will have their arrival date automatically changed to June 22 and canceled nights will be refunded. 

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