Osceola County parks: Delay in opening causing loss of revenue

Delay in opening causing loss of revenue

OSCEOLA COUNTY -- Osceola County parks reopened to campers June 8.

The Board of Commissioners gave the okay for opening up at its meeting June 2.

Osceola County Parks Supervisor Carl Baumgras told the BOC that they were ready to go at the parks, and he was just waiting on a decision from the board.

"We have everything we need to follow protocols from CDC, and we have the staff ready," Baumgras said. "The governor is opening up the state and taking the stay at home requirement away. We're getting a lot of calls from campers wondering what is going on.

"We are already losing some of our seasonals because we are behind in opening up," he added. "The governor gave indication that camping was up to the local governments to make that decision, so I guess I need to know where to go with this."

BOC member Mark Gregory said it was his understanding that Michigan parks were open, but camping was closed until June 22.

"If you go by the executive order, it states we can't open till June 22," Gregory said. "I'm not sure if that was just for state parks or if that was for county parks also, so I want to get clarification on that from the health department.

"I can't see any reason we can't open," he continued. "We have the protocols in place for it, and all the camping is family units for the most part. They have been with each other, so I don't see any high risk involved."

Baumgras added that many parks are already open for day use but no camping at this point, and he didn't see any problem with opening them up for camping.

"With the stay home order gone, I don't see any reason not to allow day camping," he said. "Beaches are allowed to be open for swimming. We can control group gatherings, so as long as they follow the rules, wearing masks and social distancing, it should be okay."

As with all reopenings, opening of the parks requires the parks department to have a preparedness plan in place to address the safety concerns of the coronavirus pandemic.

Baumgras said they will follow the guidelines of the health department and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"Hand sanitizer stations will be available, and visitors will be asked to wear masks when interacting with the staff," Baumgras said. "In addition, we have purchase backpack style sprayers to sanitize all common areas, such as restrooms, gatehouses and concession areas. That will be done every hour."

Additional safety procedures include allowing one visitor in the gatehouse at a time, limiting the number of visitors at the concessions at one time, and regulating the number of visitors in the restrooms at a time, he said.

"We are doing everything we can possibly do to comply with the executive order and promote the safety of the staff and the visitors," Baumgras said. "We will ask our visitors to consider the safety measures as an advisement. Some will comply, and some will not. If it becomes a problem, we may ask them to leave."

According to Baumgras, staff will be wearing masks and gloves, and will be practicing social distancing. In addition, plexi-glass barriers have been installed in the gatehouse to separate the staff from the public.

"We will be practicing social distancing as much as possible," Baumgras said. "I don't see social distancing as a problem in the campgrounds, because they are regulated with eight people to a campsite."

In addition to camping, the beaches and the fishing docks will be open for public use. However, the playground and the pavilion will remain closed.

"We need to make money to keep the parks open, and that comes from day passes, season passes, and camping fees," Baumgras said. "If we delay this much longer, I'm not sure it will be feasible to open cost wise. We operate solely on receipts so we are losing money right now."

The board agreed to opening the parks to camping as long as they get the clarification from the health department with regards to what the executive order requires.