Area campgrounds struggling to fill sites this summer

Devin Martin
Created: July 11, 2020 10:46 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- On June 1, Gov. Tim Walz announced that public and private campgrounds could reopen.

Since then, campgrounds in Southeastern Minnesota have been struggling to gain visitors.

"It's still really slow. You know, people are getting out but I have had a lot of cancellations,” Barb Philip, co-owner of Rochester / Marion KOA said. “I've never had as many cancellations as I've had and a lot of it is due to the COVID."

The Rochester Marion KOA has been open since March and has reopened many of their amenities since June.

With summer being a time that people enjoy the outdoors, Barb says without summer events, people are not staying at the campsite like they usually would.

For June the campsite was down 225 campers, she said. Compared to last year, the campsite would be full. 

"There are several items that are not going on this year,” Philip said. “The Jehovah's witnesses come to Rochester, they're not here this year, the fairs not going on, there's a lot of things you can't do."

Barb says that this year feels different compared to last year.

"Usually people get here and they browse the store and they're swimming at the pool and having a good time and playing volleyball, basketball, and all kinds of stuff,” she said. “And you can't do anything this year. Most people are staying right in their campers.”

Curt Kowalski and Terri Bocklund are campers from Michigan. They are here because Terri is receiving radiation therapy from Mayo Clinic. They say camping is a good alternative.

“It's probably the best way to travel right now and be safe because you can essentially create your own little bubble,” Bocklund said.

Curt agrees that traveling is an essential part of life, especially now.

"With a little bit of adventure in your heart you can live an incredible life. As we head into our golden years that's our dream,” Kowalski said.

Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch in Stewartville has their campsite open with 22 sites.

Due to COVID-19, they would usually have 45 sites open.

Executive director Tracy Bashore says getting outdoors is beneficial.

"In this time of COVID, getting out from everything else is a good and safe thing,” Bashore said. “We follow all the safety protocols and I think being outdoors is a safer environment anyways. Sitting around the campfire never hurts."

The ranch also offers horseback riding trail rides Tuesday-Saturday.

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