ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska state park campgrounds expect higher than average numbers of visits because of the COVID-19 pandemic, an official said.
A Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman said there has already been a 30% to 40% increase in park use over this time last year, The Anchorage Daily News reported Monday.
Most campgrounds are expected to open around May 15 depending on weather conditions, spokeswoman Wendy Sailors said.
The state parks division will list campground openings online. Several have already opened, including Bird Creek near Anchorage and others in Homer.
“Alaskans are continuing to use the parks more,” Sailors said. “A lot of it’s because of the hunker down and the fact that there’s a lot of kids at home and the parents are trying to figure out what to do with kids, but also people are just wanting to get out more.”
It is unclear if physical changes will be required at campgrounds this year but the natural resources department recommends park guests follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, including social distancing and sanitizing recommendations.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.
In past years, campgrounds have often been managed seasonally by hosts from the continental U.S. who are paid a stipend. Travel has been complicated by the pandemic and the Canadian border is closed, leaving the department to recruit Alaskans to act as hosts, Sailors said.
The parks division is hiring for seasonal positions and considering opening more jobs than normal due to a lack of hosts, she said.