Camping interest in Michigan stays strong after pandemic 

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A tent at Big Bear Lake State Forest Campground. Campground reservations remain strong.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

A tent at Big Bear Lake State Forest Campground. Campground reservations remain strong.

Capital News Service

LANSING –  Summer is right around the corner. That means warmer weather and outdoor activities, especially camping. Camping interest has grown since the pandemic and is staying strong, state officials say. 

During the 2021 season, reservations for camping and lodging were at an all-time record high, said Ron Olson, chief of parks and recreation for the Department of Natural Resources. 

The reservations fell 3% to 5% in 2022, but remain higher than pre-pandemic levels. Reservations for campsites and lodging are up 17% since 2019. 

The online reservation portal that the DNR has set up provides access to book lodging and camping sites across the state.

“We are at another threshold level, where (reservations) are still up just under 20% since 2019,” he said. 

Overall park attendance has also increased since 2019 as well. 

An all-time record was set in 2021 at 35 million visitors to state parks.

According to Olson, there was a 30% increase in park visitation, including camping and day use. 

There was also an increase in new park visitors.  

“A lot of folks went outdoors (during the pandemic) and are probably continuing to go, along with people that have always gone,” he said. 

Ari Adler and his wife, Jessi, have been to all 103 Michigan State parks and have been camping with their recreational vehicle for over seven years. They also camped during the pandemic.

“We camp in state parks whenever we can, and seeing more people enjoying what state parks have to offer is a positive thing,” he said.  

He said he noticed an influx of new campers as the pandemic ebbed and flowed.

The increase of new campers led to having to check availability ahead of time and make reservations especially with the more popular sites. 

This increase in new campers also has a downside. 

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.

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