SUNBURY, Ohio (WCMH) – There are sure to be some happy campers around Ohio this week as campgrounds are allowed to reopen Thursday, May 21.
The news brought a sigh of relief to families with Memorial Day plans and camping trips booked months in advance.
“Everyday we’re like, ‘Can we go? Can’t we go? Are we going camping?’ It’ll be nice now that the campgrounds are slowly opening up, so we’ll be able to do some more family time,” Katie Cicero said about her family’s June camping trip planned almost a year ago.
Earlier state guidance allowed for season, long-term campers and frontline workers to stay at campgrounds. At the Sunbury/Columbus North KOA, owner Chip Hanawalt said his team rolled out new safety procedures in April.
“A lot of the things we were already doing,” Hanawalt explained.
As a member of the governor’s task force, Hanawalt helped develop the procedures for campgrounds reopening. Much of the requirements focus on extra cleaning measures, more posted signage, and increased social distancing. The Sunbury KOA previously implemented limited contact check-ins, a seven-person cap per campsite and regular cleaning in common areas.
“We’re out in the country so the distancing is already there,” Hanawalt said. “The sites are 45 feet apart.”
Many amenities, including playgrounds, rental items like bikes and paddle boats, and common spaces like picnic shelters will remain temporarily closed. Pools can reopen on the state recommended date May 26.
Hanawalt explained the size, staffing, and location of campgrounds will determine the changes they’re making and some may have to develop different ways to attract visitors.
“People are really going to have to be creative and we’re going to have to be a little creative,” he said. “We’ve decided to create some additional activities that are more safe.”
Campers like the Cicero family are eager for a change of scenery after months of quarantine and they believe they can effectively stay safe while enjoying the outdoors.
“We’ll go out and we’ll stay our social distance, but still be in our own little tribe, so to speak,” Katie Cicero said.
Hanawalt added that campgrounds provide a release for many stir-crazy Ohioans.
“We feel we have the one place where people can recreate safely and get back to the mental state they were in,” he said
If you are planning a camping trip, check with your campground for specifics about reservations, check-in procedures, and other restrictions.
Read the full set of requirements and recommendations for campgrounds set by the state here.