The summer of 2020 may not allow for big vacation plans, but early indications are that there is a pent up demand for camping.
Private campgrounds were allowed to open on May 20, according to Jim Watson, a spokesman for the state Department of Economic and Community Development. And if two Litchfield County campgrounds are any indication, people are eager to see something beyond the inside of their homes, where many have been quarantined since mid-March.
Barry Brown, one of the owners of Lone Oak Campsites in East Canaan, said Wednesday that he’s had more interest in campsites than he has available.
The campground has 465 sites spread over 250 acres. But because of uncertainty as to what rules the administration of Gov. Ned Lamont might have in place, Brown said Lone Oak officials have limited the sites that they are letting people use to individuals with recreational vehicles and camping trailers that have their own running water and bathroom facilities.
“We’ve had a lot of interest,” Brown said. “People are anxious to get outside and enjoy themselves.”
Watson said that private campgrounds are allowed to reopen as long “as long as they follow general business rules.” Those rules include:
- Wearing face masks at all times when in public.
- Operating at 50 percent of normal capacity in terms of consumers
- Cleaning bathrooms used by the public multiple times a day and hourly during busy periods.
Brown said Lone Oak is at about one-third of its normal capacity. He said the campground is limiting campsite visitors to family members “or people you’ve already been close distancing with.”
Campgrounds that have seasonal customers — those who rent a campsite for an entire season - were able to open last month. But Michael Busch, the owner of the White Pines Campsites in Barkhamsted, waited an extra two weeks before opening to seasonal campers.
“The phones have been ringing off the hook; we could fill the whole park if we were able,” Busch said.
“When you think about it, this is the perfect activity for the pandemic,” Busch said. “You can reserve your campsite online and when you get to the campsite, we have enough room that you wouldn’t have to see anybody else if you didn’t want to.”
White Pines has 209 campsites on 63 acres, he said.
“They (the state) were looking for 20 feet between campsite, but we’ve got a lot more than that,” Busch said. “We’re a pretty rustic campground.”
White Pines has unisex bathrooms that will be cleaned frequently, he said. Busch said campground officials elected not to open up the building with multiple showers because of concerns of cleanliness, choosing instead to make available the two outdoor showers that have hot water.
White Pines would normally be booked solid for Memorial Day weekend, Busch said, adding that he understands the importance of social distancing.
“How much of an impact it has on our business depends upon what time of the summer we’re talking about,” he said.
“Operating at 50 percent of capacity in June would be pretty much in line with what we normally see,” Busch said. “But July and August are our busy months, so I hoping the governor will be able to relax things a little more as the summer goes on.”
While private campgrounds are already accepting visitors, the reopening of campgrounds at Connecticut’s state parks and beaches remains in flux.
Will Healey, a spokesman for the state Department of Energy and Protection, said state campgrounds would remain closed until at least June 11. The state’s campground reservation program in not currently operating “to prevent the need to reimburse the public for future reservations if campgrounds remain closed,” Healey said.
“Department staff are currently assessing if there are ways to reopen the campgrounds that protect both the public and the people working at the parks,” he said.
“The decision will be based on current public health guidance, cleaning protocols and the availability of adequate staff and appropriate personal protective equipment,” Healey said.