GREENVILLE, Mich. — Setting up the tent with his wife and kids is a tradition for Adam Snider.
“Every year we spend Memorial Day weekend and we get together with our church,” said Snider, who lives in Portage. “For the last four or five years, we’ve all booked sites here [Wabsis Lake Campground] in November, so it’s kind of a tradition for our church.”
Snider says in addition to fellowship, the group participates in other season-friendly activities, like swimming.
“Camping is great cause it kind of takes distractions out of the picture,” said Snider. “You don’t need a lot of glamour and big things to enjoy one another and enjoy family.”
While the family is seasoned at spending time outside, Wabsis Lake Campground says it’s seeing new levels of interest in the activity.
“People just want to get outside,” said Josh Matzen, park manager.
According to Matzen, a yearslong, steady, increased demand for camping surged last summer. He says people saw it as a way to get out of the house, but stay safe from the coronavirus. With statewide restrictions set to loosen even more, the park’s season is close to booking out.
“Every weekend is full, usually for Memorial Day to Labor Day,” said Matzen. “But, when we started seeing those shoulder-season weekends fill up, and when we started seeing the middle of the weeks, where we’re normally at 50-70 percent looking more like 75-90 percent, then we realized, 'Holy cow, it’s going to be a year.'”
More visitors translates to a bigger budget for the Kent County Parks Department, and ones like it, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Reservations at Michigan DNR parks are up roughly 40 percent when compared to 2020. However, officials viewed last year as successful too. Bookings then increased 25 percent.
This weekend, 95 percent of Michigan DNR’s campsites will be occupied, which is up four percent from 2019.
The agency predicts a “near record” amount of campers this year.
Those who rough it say they’re just happy to get back to normal.
“Nice to regroup and get everybody back together when we were spread apart last year,” said Justin Wilson, who lives in Montague.