GRAND LAKE ST. MARYS — For Diane Beam and her family and friends, the Memorial Day weekend would be spent camping at Grand Lake St. Marys.
Camping just opened up at state campgrounds last week on a reservation-only method.
“It’s great to be outside, enjoying the warm weather around friends. It’s great to see the campground full. It’s a great kickoff to the summer,” said Beam, of Delphos.
Safety is the watchword in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and they’re all taking it seriously, taking into consideration social distancing from each other and other campers.
“I guess I’d rather them be safe than sorry. But yeah, we, you know, we’re still able to go walking and campfires and so it’s still good,” she said.
Brian Miller, Southwest District Manager for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, oversees 14 state parks in Ohio from Grand Lake St. Marys in the north to Hueston Woods in the south.
He says there have been some changes made to allow campers to safely use the state’s campgrounds.
“Probably the largest thing we did is we have gone to 100% reservable campsites. We’re getting away from that direct customer interaction when people would come in in the past. We are not allowing visitors to come in. It’s just the family units for the week,” Miller said.
Some changes people will notice is that the playgrounds are closed — including basketball courts, volleyball courts and miniature golf.
They’ve also stepped up cleaning their restrooms.
“Pools can be opened at this time. There are some guidelines we’re looking at because St. Marys and Indian Lake do have pools but we’re not ready to open those at this time,” Miller said.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve had to cut back on seasonal staff at the state parks.
“We didn’t bring them back. So, basically, what we’ve had in our parks has been our full-time people and they’ve had to do different things like opening buildings and facilities, they’ve been mowing grass and doing those tasks. The other thing is that our retail centers won’t be open this weekend, either, so our camp stores or commissaries that people typically can go through to buy firewood and ice, we will not have those this weekend either,” Miller said.
Some private campgrounds are also expecting big crowds throughout Memorial Day weekend.
Huggy Bear Campground, near Middle Point, is abiding by CDC guidelines when it comes to allowing campers and seasonal residents back in.
“We’ve got the store marked off so people stay six feet apart. We’re doing extra cleaning in the restrooms. We got the playgrounds all blocked off and the swimming pool is closed down,” said Mike Niese, owner of the campground.
Niese is just happy they were able to open back up for Memorial Day.
“Yeah, it was time,” Niese said.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.