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Owners of private campgrounds Up North eager to reopen

Taylor Wizner

Ahead of the partial reopening of restaurants, bars and retail businesses in northern Michigan, some private campground owners feel that Governor Gretchen Whitmer doesn’t understand the safety of camping.

"Camping is an extremely safe way to travel and get around, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be out there enjoying the sunshine and the fresh air,” said Cathy Kuebler, owner of Traverse City Kampgrounds of America. “It should totally be allowed."

Recreational camping for individuals who otherwise have a primary residence is not permitted at this time.

"Recreational camping at campgrounds who rent to individuals who otherwise have a primary residence and are traveling to the campground for non-COVID-19-related purposes are not permitted under this order," the Governor's office wrote under the executive order's Frequently Asked Questions.

When the stay-at-home order was announced, Kuebler was getting ready to return to Michigan from Florida with her husband.  Rather than hotels, the Kuebler’s felt safer checking in at campgrounds along the drive home.

“The camp stores were closed, there was someone who greeted us from a distance and then someone on a golf cart showed us to our site,” she said.  “And that was just at the beginning.”

After going completely digital, Kuebler is prepared to reopen. Campers can check-in over the phone, shop from the camp store online and sign up to do laundry by appointment.

Gov. Whitmer doesn’t understand that campgrounds have always been very clean, said Betty Workman, owner of Vacation Trailer Park Campground in Benzonia.

“I hosted Governor Granholm at Vacation Trailer Park years ago,” Workman said. “The purpose of her visit was to familiarize her with camping. I really think this would be a wonderful thing for Governor Whitmer to experience herself.”

After turning thousands of dollars of business away, Workman is eager to reopen, and says she can do so safely. Private campground owners expect to reopen on May 29 after the stay-at-home order is lifted.