COVID Camping…

June 24th, 2020

After having 3 camping trips cancelled due to COVID, the state parks are now open, and our annual trip to Tettegouche State Park (usually Wooden Boat Show, but that’s virtual only this year) over solstice was booked a year ahead again, so we headed up north.

Campers don’t seem to get that we’ve got a COVID pandemic happening. No masks, other than ours and DNR staff. We spent much of the time at our site, and up and down the shore checking out campgrounds, and of course, a stop at Gun Flint Tavern!

Back home, after a long drive to consider the situation, I fired off this missive to the DNR person in charge of this sort of thing, Linda Erickson-Eastwood, the DNR Commissioner, and the Governor:

Ms. Erickson-Eastwood, Commissioner Strommen, and Governor Walz:

We need an Executive Order requiring everyone to wear masks in public.  I also think it’s too early to have campgrounds and parks open.  After spending 5 days up at Tettegouche State Park, and an afternoon at Jay Cooke State Park, I think it’s too early to “open up.” At Tettegouche, staff was wearing masks, most but not all, when deep cleaning and stocking bathrooms and taking out trash, and that was happening at least twice daily, GOOD! Plastic barrier was up between sinks, GOOD!  Signs on bathroom door about distancing, GOOD, but no mention of wearing MASKS.

And the CAMPERS!!  That was the major problem.  We were the only ones wearing masks in the tight bathrooms, and we had them around our necks hiking and pulled them up when others were nearby.  People didn’t seem to care about distancing. Jay Cooke was so crowded, particularly on the approaches to and on the bridge, people were not observing distancing at all, and again, we were the only ones with masks on.

In a camping situation, how on earth will any sort of enforcement happen, who would that fall to?  I can’t imagine a more difficult task than attempting to get folks to take this pandemic seriously!  But if Menards can, so can Minnesota.

Generally, we need an Executive Order to wear masks in public, top down.  Again, I think it’s too early to have campgrounds and parks open.  But campgrounds and parks are open…  That said, in addition to an Executive Order from Gov to wear masks in public as state parks and campgrounds are open, a few things I’d recommend:

  • A LARGE NEON sign at the check-in stopsign/desk “wear masks in public, i.e., restrooms, and have handy out in public” or some such, signs on bathroom doors.
  • Get serious about signage. There should be signs everywhere there’s a sign of another sort, i.e., vending machines, wood sales, picnic areas, water spigots, rentals, etc., EVERYWHERE.
  • Make sure staff has large supply of cheap Menards style masks to hand out to everyone not wearing one, asking, “Do you need a mask?” frequently!!
  • Masks everywhere, with a sign, “”Take one, wear it in good health!”  Camp hosts can put masks on picnic tables in a bag with note inside, “Please wear masks in bathrooms, in public where others are nearby, have handy on the trails, for everyone’s protection,” or some such…
  • Sell irresistibly cute pine tree, bear, moose, etc. masks at all visitor centers, front and center with a sign, “Please wear masks, help keep our parks open,” or some such.
  • Camping and reservation page banner with two photos, one of cute 20 somethings with masks hanging around their neck hiking with message, “Pull up your mask when you encounter others on the trail!” and a few women in the bathroom with masks on distancing and handwashing, “Keep 6’ Distance!  Wear Masks!  Wash Those Hands!”  Website changes are easy.
  • On reservation page, when making reservation, the message “I agree to wear a mask when in proximity to others, while hiking, in bathrooms, etc.” and click an “I accept” box. Again, website changes are easy.

We just cancelled out of our Minneopa State Park camp host gig, which I was seriously looking forward to, but that gig involves not just stocking, but cleaning bathrooms at the campground and separate picnic site, and of course greeting and hosting… but there’s COVID (plus we’re down to one vehicle now).  As it is, I don’t think I could do camp hosting without bringing my sewing machine and making masks in the screen tent, greeting campers and handing them out, hanging them on each site number post, in the bathrooms, etc!  It’s not part of the camp host gig, nor is being a bossy boots, but this is a pandemic, and I think the state needs to step up its precautions.

We need an Executive Order requiring wearing of masks in public.  STAT!

Thanks for your consideration,

Carol A. Overland

I’m seriously bummed over backing out of the camp hosting gig, but with what I observed this past week, neither of us are comfortable with all the cleaning necessary and dealing with people, mostly unmasked, that’s necessary as camp host. Same goes for camping in the near, and perhaps distant, future — is camping in crowded campgrounds a good idea? Would it be better to head out to way out of the way dispersed camping areas? Reservations about reservations going forward…

But the past week was overall well worth it, got around to a few favorites and some new places too. Cascade River State Park is still closed to camping, but will open on July 15.

Silver Bay has a rather bizarre scenic overlook of the Cliffs taconite pellet plant!

Yes, MASKS!!!

And Taconite Harbor, where I took old Kenya for a swim a decade ago while touring the state getting caught up on CLEs:

Smothered chicken burritos:

And of course, corncakes with rhubarb & maple syrup:

And no, not even close to primitive:

Little Sadie loves not-at-all-primitive camping:

And a stop to check out Jay Cooke State Park on the way back:

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