Updated: May 19, 2020 06:43 PM
Created: May 19, 2020 05:03 PM
Public and private campgrounds in Minnesota remain closed for Memorial Day Weekend to recreational overnight campers under Gov. Tim Walz's COVID-19 order.
That current order is scheduled to expire at the end of the month unless it’s extended by Walz.
“We’ve been camping since ’82, it might be the first year we might not be able to go camping,” said camper Mark Lutes. “It’s kind of sad.”
Lutes, from Apple Valley, wrote to the governor saying campers can “socially distance” from each other at campgrounds in the state.
Lutes added that RVs, like the one he and his wife use to camp, should be allowed into campgrounds because they have their own bathroom facilities on board, eliminating the need for communal spaces.
“I’m hoping he will,” Lutes said about Walz changing the order. “I’m not betting on it.”
Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources posted on its website that the camping closures at public and private campgrounds is to slow the spread of COVID-19.
DNR’s website also said certain facilities in which people gather and linger, and those with shared amenities, continue to pose a public health risk.
Toby O'Rourke, with Kampgrounds of America (KOA), said restrictions remain on their Minnesota campgrounds, but other states where they operate are opening up for recreational RV camping.
“We are seeing campgrounds open up across the country, Iowa is open, the Dakotas are open, Wisconsin’s open, so those are some neighboring states to Minnesota,” O'Rourke said. “We think it’s a great way for people to get outside and enjoy nature and still be diligent and responsible about coronavirus.”
KOA has made safety improvements at campgrounds in Minnesota, including staff wearing masks to greet guests and closing public gathering places like pools, playgrounds and other activities.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reached out to the Governor’s Office to see if campgrounds will be included in their next announcement, which could be Wednesday, on the latest COVID-19 restrictions that expire at the end of May.
"We are hopeful that the governor will allow RV camping for Memorial Day Weekend,” said Hospitality Minnesota President and CEO Liz Rammer. “This is a crucial revenue driver for seasonal businesses that are only open 90 to 100 days and can make or break an entire year.”
“Where I’m going they haven’t canceled my reservation," Lutes said. "They are waiting and hoping that the Governor is going to come through at the last minute."
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