CORONAVIRUS

Campgrounds reopen in Iowa Friday, see takers despite some health limitations

People were there early Friday morning to find a site

Linda and Don Ash of Colesburg, Pat and Shirley Pirc of Dyersville and Connor Hunter of Anamosa relax at the campground
Linda and Don Ash of Colesburg, Pat and Shirley Pirc of Dyersville and Connor Hunter of Anamosa relax at the campground in Pinicon Ridge Park near Central City in this 2014 file photo. Campgrounds around Iowa were allowed to open Friday, with some coronavirus-related restrictions. For now, campers must be in a self-contained unit with a working restroom, like an RV, since the park’s shower houses and restrooms remain closed. (The Gazette)

Some Eastern Iowans are ready to go camping.

With Gov. Kim Reynolds allowing campgrounds across the state to open Friday, some people wasted little time in heading outdoors.

“They’re already starting to fill up,” said Ryan Schlader of Linn County Conservation. “By about 7 this morning, we had a dozen at Squaw Creek Park. People were coming in bright and early to camp. We’re not surprised.”

Schlader said Linn County Conservation tried to have the campgrounds open at the county’s Squaw Creek, Morgan Creek and Pinicon Ridge parks at 5 a.m. Friday. He expected all of them would be busy.

“I think people were ready to go,” he said.

Lake Macbride State Park in Johnson County didn’t see quite as much of a rush for campsites, park manager Ron Puettmann reported Friday morning, saying he’d had six walk-ins for the park’s 42 campsites.

Camping this weekend will be done on a first-come, first-served basis. Sites won’t be available for reservations until next week, though online reservations can be made now, Puettmann said.

“I’m quite sure people were waiting anxiously to get on,” he said.

While Reynolds’ campground announcement came Wednesday, Schlader and Puettmann said they had no issues having the campgrounds ready for Friday.

Schlader said county staff have been in touch with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and other county conservation boards to discuss protocols for reopening to ensure a safe experience for campers and employers.

“We anticipated at some point the order would be lifted,” Schlader said. “We were anticipating maybe May 15. The campgrounds were in good shape and ready to go.”

For now, camping comes with some limitations:

• Campers can camp only in a self-contained unit with a functioning restroom, such as a recreational vehicle.

• Shower houses with restrooms will remain closed for the time being.

• Campsites are limited to six people unless they are from the same household.

• No visitors are allowed at the campsites.

Puettmann said staffers and a DNR officer will be on hand to make sure guidelines are followed, but he didn’t anticipate enforcement would be an issue.

“For the most part, we’re going to allow people to police themselves,” he said.

It’s hard to gauge demand, Schlader said.

The weather isn’t yet deal for camping, and some people might not be ready to camp, given the continuing coronavirus.

“There is a lot of uncertainty,” he said. “Do people feel like they need to get out and enjoy a camping experience within their own campsite, or do people still feel under the weather and think it’s not a good idea for my family to go right now? ... We just want this to be an option for people.”

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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