According to a local news report Michigan’s state parks have been attracting visitors for decades, but interest in camping has surged since the COVID-19 pandemic began. State officials say camping interest remains strong as the state gears up for the 2023 summer season.
According to Ron Olson, chief of parks and recreation for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), reservations for camping and lodging reached an all-time record high in 2021, and despite falling 3-5% in 2022, they still remain higher than pre-pandemic levels. In fact, reservations for campsites and lodging have increased by 17% since 2019.
The DNR has set up an online reservation portal to allow visitors to book lodging and camping sites across the state.
Olson notes that “we are at another threshold level, where (reservations) are still up just under 20% since 2019.”
Additionally, overall park attendance has increased since 2019, with an all-time record of 35 million visitors to state parks in 2021.
An all-time record was set in 2021 at 35 million visitors to state parks, with a 30% increase in park visitation, including camping and day use.
There was also an increase in new park visitors. With this influx of new campers, there is a downside, however. Adler said people tend to not know the basic etiquette of camping such as no loud radios or TVs, don’t cut through other people’s campsites and watch after your pets.
Camping has become increasingly popular during the pandemic as people seek outdoor activities and more space for social distancing.
In response, private campground owners and operators in Michigan have been working to keep up with demand.
The Michigan Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (MARVC) reports that private campgrounds have seen an increase in business as well, with some reporting up to 90% occupancy rates.
“Private campgrounds have always been a popular option for campers, but the pandemic has brought even more attention to them,” said Michelle Escamilla, executive director of the MARVC.
“Our members have been working hard to keep up with the increased demand, but it’s been challenging,” Escamilla added.
Private campgrounds and RV parks offer amenities that state parks often do not, such as electrical and water hookups, swimming pools, and on-site restaurants.
Additionally, private campgrounds often have fewer restrictions than state parks, making them a more attractive option for some campers.
Despite the increase in camping interest, there have been challenges for both private campground owners and state officials.
The influx of new campers has led to more competition for reservations, and some private campgrounds have had to turn away potential customers due to high occupancy rates.
State officials have also noted challenges with enforcing park rules and educating new campers on camping etiquette.
As Michigan prepares for another busy camping season, both state officials and private campground owners are working to ensure that campers have a safe and enjoyable experience.
From increased staffing to updated park rules, efforts are underway to keep up with the high demand for camping in Michigan.