Are campers following Vermont COVID-19 precautions?

Published: Jul. 6, 2020 at 5:26 PM EDT
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It was a busy holiday weekend with Vermont State Parks full of visitors-- too full, some people tell us. Our Cat Viglienzoni reports.

The campsites at Grand Isle State Park on Monday were about as full as they can be under the state Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation’s guidelines. Campgrounds at state parks are only booking to 75% capacity right now, even though the ACCD guidelines have allowed up to 100% capacity. But we heard from some of you-- including a couple who stayed there last week-- that some visitors weren't following safety protocols.

Hal Wilson and his wife are parking their camper back at their Georgia home. They've finished cleaning it out after they took their dogs for a camping trip to Grand Isle State Park. It's a 30-plus year tradition for their family. But this year was the first time they've felt a little bit unsafe.

"We had a lot of campers around us that were not following protocols," Hal Wilson said.

He reached out to me concerned about the lack of masks he saw and a large gathering he says they witnessed near their campsite.

"There were probably 35 or so people," Wilson said. "No distancing from one party to another."

He says what frustrated him was that no one appeared to be enforcing the precautions.

"It seemed like the staff was very hands-off," Wilson said.

When I brought his concerns to the park's manager, Danielle Schneider, she told us they feel visitors have overwhelmingly understood the safety measures.

"Largely, I'm impressed with how people have been doing so well," Schneider said. "We see them putting on masks before they get to us."

Schneider says while masks are strongly encouraged, they aren't required.

"People aren't expected to wear one when they're at their campsite or they have plenty of space around them, like when they're sunning themselves at the beach. And so I wouldn't necessarily expect to see as much mask-wearing out there," she said.

"We're trying to take a practical viewpoint on this," Vermont State Parks Director Craig Whipple said.

Whipple says they don't think they have 100% compliance with their COVID-19 precautions. But he says they're pleasantly surprised with the percentage of people who have been following their recommendations. He says they're communicating with guests to make sure everyone is aware.

"If we see a pattern where there's a blatant disregard for those kinds of behaviors, we'll change our strategy," Whipple said.

Wilson says their experience won't stop them from camping again this summer. But this time they'll know what to expect from their fellow campers.

"If the precautions aren't being followed, then maybe we should just worry about taking care of ourselves and not worry about what everybody else is doing," Wilson said.

If you're looking to book at one of the state parks but you're having trouble finding a spot, keep checking. I'm told that with uncertainties around which out-of-state counties can visit, people are canceling and rebooking constantly. And your best bet is to try for midweek days.