May is the time of year when the first glimpses of
summer start showing up in Minnesota. People congregate outdoors and take the
numerous lakes and parks that dot the landscape of the state.
But, due to COVID-19 restrictions, many of those activities
have been forced to change. When Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz extended his stay at
home through May 18, it included maintaining restrictions on public gatherings,
which includes campgrounds.
In Wright County, campgrounds are an important part of
the county’s parks system and one of the most popular attractions during the spring
and summer. The campgrounds were initially scheduled to open today (May 1), but
when the last extension to the stay at home order came day, the opening date
was pushed back to May 7. With yesterday’s announcement, the opening was pushed
back to May 17.
Wright County Parks & Recreation Director Marc
Mattice said he had hoped that parks systems around the state could have opened
on a limited basis with social distancing measures being adhered to, but didn’t
get the news he was hoping for.
“I’m disappointed,” Mattice said. “Our campgrounds are
popular and people enjoy using them. I had hoped that we could have opened on a
limited capacity for fully contained units and keep our communal facilities
closed. But, that did not occur, so we’re doing what we’re directed to do.”
Although Walz hinted that, based on the results of
loosening some of the restrictions, there is the potential that campgrounds
could be added to the list of activities and businesses that are allowed to
gradually resume before the stay at home order deadline comes. But, until he
hears otherwise, Mattice said the campgrounds will be ready to open, but remain
“We’ll continue to delay our campground opening until
May 17,” Mattice said. “We will continue as planned to open on May 18. We will
be contacting everybody who had a campground reservation through that time
period and give them the option of a full refund or an opportunity to
Mattice pointed out that the campground closure has
nothing to do with the parks system being closed. The parks have been used
extensively during the current stay at home order because, while people are
discouraged from congregating in large numbers, they are being told to get
outside, exercise and enjoy the outdoors.
“The stay at home order still promotes outdoor
activities and the use of parks,” Mattice said. “That includes boating, hiking,
biking and picnicking. All of our parks will remain open for those activities.
We are going to work on getting our picnic tables spread apart throughout our
system in our picnic areas, adding extra garbage facilities and continuing to
have people stay six feet apart.”
The Parks & Recreation Department has already
announced that all scheduled programs the department runs have been canceled
for the entire month of May and that June activities will remain in limbo until
the guidance from the state allows them to resume.
It’s not how he wanted the start of the summer
recreation season to begin, but Mattice said his department will be prepared to
open when the law allows for it.
“Our campgrounds will be ready to go on May 18 if the governor
allows us to open at the time or if he lifts some of the restrictions during
this two-week period,” Mattice said. “Our buildings are ready. Our campground
managers have the grounds ready and will continue to maintain them to be ready
to go. We’re just waiting for the word that we can open.”