Indiana campgrounds staying busy amid COVID outbreak
ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) — As 90-degree heat beat down on the Mounds State Park campground on a recent afternoon, many campers retreated to their air-conditioned RVs, but others braved the weather, a sign of the recent boom in the camping industry in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Boy Scout Troop 230 ventured on a 10-mile hike in defiance of the sweltering heat, and several park attendees rode bicycles.
Larry Bornman of Fortville flipped burgers on his campfire while his wife and two dogs stayed cool in the camper.
“We like walking on the trails,” said Bornman, who has been a patron of the campground every summer since 1994.
Typically, the Bornmans camp earlier in the summer, but this year the reservations were packed after a late reopening.
As the world began to shut down in March due to the novel coronavirus, most of the traditional fun that comes with spring and summer was put on hold.
Although the economy took a hit during the shutdown, the camping industry is thriving as people take to the great outdoors for safe and socially distanced fun and relaxation.
Scott Crossley, property manager at Mounds State Park, said the campground is sold out for weekends into at least mid-August.
“Enjoying nature seems to be one thing people can easily do while maintaining preventive measures against COVID-19,” Crossley said.
Use of the park has been well above average this year, which Crossley said matches trends at parks across the state.
“We’ve seen just an overall increase of park attendance in general,” Crossley said. “I think everybody was locked in for a period, and they want to get out and enjoy the outdoors more.”
Mounds State Park reopened its campground the Friday of Memorial Day weekend and business has been booming ever since.
“It’s been really nice to see folks are very cognizant of social distancing,” Crossley said. “It seems to be working out well. Everybody gets to get outdoors.”
Similar success has been seen at Anderson/Muncie KOA, which has kept its campground open throughout the pandemic but with limited services.
“We’ve been pretty busy, and people are really wanting to get out and I can’t blame them,” KOA manager Caitlin Moughler said. “They’ve been cooped up inside and camping is probably the safest way to get out and still be social distanced.”
Bathhouses and restrooms were closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, so RV campers had to be self-contained.
“We have been limited in what we could offer,” Moughler said. “We could only be open to our travelers, so our one-night stays. We get a lot of snowbirds, so people going home to Michigan and to Canada. Often we’re their last stop before they get home.”
Visitors were not allowed in the office and all business was conducted over the phone or curbside.
In spite of the restrictions, Moughler said, the campground received great reviews and customers happily complied with social distancing guidelines.
“Having a safe place to go was really important to everyone,” Moughler said. “We’ve promoted everything the CDC recommends.”