Parks, rentals, campsites see rise in numbers

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Novice and experienced outdoor enthusiasts alike have been taking advantage of recreation opportunities in and around Montgomery County.

And it is not just a summer development as social-distancing guidelines begin to relax — state parks, bait shops and campgrounds have seen large attendance numbers since the spring when health officials began stressing social distancing amid the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“I’ve experienced a five-fold increase in people going fishing,” Beautiful Bud’s Sports & Bait owner Richard Britton said. “I’ve been selling a lot of tackle and lots of rods and reels.”

Deadlines for fishing licenses had been postponed during the pandemic, he said, allowing fishermen to fish without credentials. But requirements will resume as normal today.

Britton is not the only one seeing large turnouts.

Aaron Douglass, interpretive naturalist at Turkey Run and Shades state parks, said he has seen many new faces among the crowds in Montgomery and Parke counties.

“At Turkey Run we’ve seen capacity issues with parking lots getting full; Shades has had those issues as well,” he said. “I’ve been delighted, personally, with all the folks who maybe haven’t been here since they were kids and are now bringing their kids with them so they can fall in love with the park, maybe for the first time.”

Another site that has experienced overcrowding issues is Sugar Creek Campgrounds and Canoe Rentals, and owner Julie Yager has seen to the sanitation of cabins, campers and canoes to keep attendants safe.

“We’re sanitizing like crazy with chemicals specifically for the coronavirus,” she said. “We’re getting a lot of new people we’ve never seen before, especially at the cabins. And all of our tenting sections are full. I was shocked.

Like Douglass, Yager expressed great pleasure at seeing families getting out of the house and utilizing the outdoors.

“Every weekend is like a holiday weekend out here,” she said. “We’re so excited to see people out instead of sitting at home. More and more people have been buying campers and tenting supplies. All the other places are like this too, even way up in Canoe Country (in Daleville).”

Some sites have only experienced a resurgence in attendance since Gov. Eric Holcomb’s Back on Track Indiana plan begin relaxing restrictions around the state.

A manager at Clements Canoes Outdoor Center, Mike Jones said described attendance as “steady.”

“I will say that at the very beginning we really didn’t see much of an impact,” Jones said. “We’ve experienced some issues with social distancing in our shuttles when we take people to sites and drop them off, but we’ve been following guidelines from the state and now we’re able to fill those spots.”

Whether it’s camping, hiking, boating or fishing, one common law has been out in force since the beginning of the pandemic.

“When you’re laid off and you can’t get into crowds, people go fishing,” Britton said.

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