JOHNSTON — Within an hour of Gov. Kim Reynolds announcing last week that more facilities will open at state parks in time for the long Memorial Day weekend, all 12 cabins available for rent at Iowa’s first state park were spoken for.
“I think the cabins are a very safe way for people to get back out and enjoy because they’re in their own space with their own restroom and their own kitchen,” said Kelly Peterman, concession operator at the century-old Backbone State Park, south of Strawberry Point in Delaware County. “I’ve turned away probably 20 people because we’re full.”
Reynolds, who previously loosened some restrictions on campgrounds, said more will be eased starting Friday at Iowa’s state parks. The announcement affects modern restrooms and showers and rental cabins. Additionally, campgrounds will be open for all types of campers including RVs, pop-ups and tents.
But there are health restrictions.
Park visitors must continue social distancing and avoid gathering in groups larger than 10. In campgrounds, only campers with overnight reservations — not visitors — will be allowed.
Shelters, lodges, playgrounds, group camps, camp museums and visitor centers stay closed.
Only six overnight guests per campsite will be allowed unless an immediate family has more than six people.
Picnic tables and grills are open and available for use. For cabin rentals, all kitchenware such as dishes, pots and pans have been removed and renters will need to bring their own from home.
To allow for more cleaning time for cabins between rentals, check-in time has been moved back from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. and checkout time has been moved up from 11 a.m. to 9 a.m.
State park beaches will be open, but closely monitored.
Iowa has 68 state parks and four state forests with hiking trails, lake recreation and camping.
Backbone State Park Manager Nate Detrich said the majority of the park’s 126 campground spaces were also rented by Wednesday afternoon for the weekend. All the electric camping sites were reserved before the governor’s announcement, he said.
“We’re going to have a pretty full house,” Detrich said. “If people wash their hands and keep their distance, we’ll be OK.”
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