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Emmet County campgrounds to open Friday

By Michael Tidemann

The Emmet County Conservation Board in a teleconference meeting Thursday agreed to open county campgrounds Friday, May 8 with cautionary provisions required by the state.
The board at its April meeting had agreed to open campgrounds with many of the same provisions. However, Gov. Kim Reynolds shortly later ordered all state campgrounds closed.
The opening will help prevent a serious budget shortfall from planned camping receipts, according to Conservation Board Director Eric Anderson.
According to the provisions:
Visitors will not be allowed in the campgrounds, only those occupying the campsites.
Campfires at the individual campsites will be limited to campers occupying that campsite.
Six occupants per campsite, unless immediate family contains more than six.
Self-contained camping units only (no tenting allowed).
All camping units must remain 10 feet apart.

All modern restrooms and shower buildings, including water fountains, remain closed.
Communal picnic tables and grills are open for use at your own risk.
Playgrounds, day-use rental lodges and shelter houses will remain closed.
Cabins, yurts and shelter houses will remain closed (that rule would apply only to shelter houses since county parks have neither cabins nor yurts).
Visitors centers, nature centers and museums within state parks will remain closed.
Beaches remain open, but will be monitored closely.

If rules are now followed, Emmet County Conservation Board will close all Emmet County Conservation Board campgrounds without notice.
In broaching the subject of campground reopening, Anderson pointed to the Governor’s allowing state campgrounds to open with stipulations which he reviewed. He then asked if any board members had any questions.

Board Member Greg Matheson asked how monitoring would happen after 4 p.m. after staff left.
“That was going to be my question. How do you monitor that?” echoed Board Member Phyllis McKean.
Matheson also asked about tents.
Anderson said that, while the state would allow tents with porta potties, he would recommend self-contained camping only. He underscored the importance of campgrounds reopening to save the department budget.

When Matheson asked if there would be any help with lost camping revenues, Anderson said as a government entity, the department wouldn’t qualify for federal assistance going to businesses. He said he also didn’t know if county conservation would qualify for COVID-19 impact money going to local governments. If he could get assurance in writing, that wouldn’t be a problem, he said. “We’re in kind of a spot, in my opinion,” Anderson said.
While monitoring beaches was not a concern for Anderson, he said monitoring campfires would be.
“We cannot babysit the entire population of Emmet County,” Anderson said, adding that if people don’t follow the rules campgrounds would close down.
Anderson fielded an earlier suggestion by Emmet County Emergency Management Director Travis Sheridan that only county residents be allowed to camp, saying that would be impossible to monitor without 24/7 staff.

McKean observed that if workers on area wind turbines were allowed to camp, then camping would have to be open to everyone. McKean also suggested that rules be posted throughout campgrounds.
“If we open, we will absolutely do that,” said Anderson.
Anderson said Board Member Curt Larson, with whom he had spoken previously that morning, said he would abide by whatever the board’s decision might be. Anderson also called Board Member Dave Enerson who said he would agree on reopening with the stipulations.
The board agreed to reopen campgrounds on a trial basis, provided the public follow the enhanced rules.
The board also heard from Naturalist Ashley Reed and her assistant Chloe Bauler who reported on online nature education.
Anderson also noted that the Nature Center will remain closed.
“Following the Governor’s rules, the Nature Center will remain closed at this time,” Anderson said.
In the Emmet County Nature Center Foundation meeting, which preceded the Conservation Board meeting, Anderson said the Nature Center banquet which was previously postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be held Sept. 12 at the Elks Lodge.

Anderson also praised Reed and Bauler for their work on online nature education.
“I think those girls have knocked it out o the park as far as what they’ve done online,” Anderson said, noting that they had produced specific videos that teachers had requested.
Reed said she will continue to produce videos even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

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