Michigan Parks Hope Locals Stay Close to Home
"It looks like camping is still affordable, so that's great for us," said Janice Teppo, manager at Sleepy Bear Campground in Empire, a private campground near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
The 165-site campground opens Friday (May 15) and has 641 reservations for the season, more than the 603 reservations by mid-May last year.
In general, visitors are booking longer stays and plan to bring in more family members, Teppo said.
"A lot say they can't afford long trips, but they can afford this," she said.
Reservations at Michigan's state parks don't paint such a rosy picture.
"We're down about 6% as this point," said Harold Herta, chief of resource management for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
If that number holds, it could translate into $1.56 million in lost revenue, he said.
"One thing we have seen is … there have been increases in campers in areas near metropolitan areas," Herta said.
Last year, the biggest drop in campers was in the Upper Peninsula, followed by parks in northern Lower Michigan. Camper numbers for southern Michigan were up slightly, Herta said.
"We tied that to gas prices," he said.
Michigan state parks average about 5 million campers in a season, but the poor economy is expected to impact summer travel plans across the state, Herta said.
"Everybody keeps leaving Michigan and losing their jobs," he said.
Other area destinations expect to hold their own this season. Reservations for the 16 motel rooms and 25 campsites at Ranch Rudolph near Traverse City are on par with last year, owner Melody Hamill said.
"Our reservations are right where they've been for the last few years," she said. "Last summer panned out OK and I think it will this year, also. Now we just need Mother Nature to play her part."
Ranch Rudolph has seen an increase in private events, such as weddings and company retreats, and people are still going on horseback riding trips there and floats down the Boardman River, she said.