By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
As of Monday, camping in Wyoming parks is again open to out-of-state residents.
This announcement from the state parks system comes more than a month after Gov. Mark Gordon stated that overnight camping would be allowed in state parks by May 15, but only for Wyoming residents.
Gordon said in late April that the state has been cautious about reopening its parks for overnight camping because of the number of visitors who came from outside the state in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic and stayed at the parks.
“The number of people who came to Wyoming to use our campgrounds in February was the same as it would have been any other June,” he said in April. “The cars and campers that were in those campgrounds came from North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Colorado, Utah, Nebraska and Montana. There has been a tremendous amount of out-of-state pressure on these campgrounds.”
Wyoming parks have been open to outdoor recreation, but not overnight camping, since the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States in March. Because the state has seen a relatively low number of cases, camping was allowed for Wyoming residents in May.
With other states beginning to open their own parks for camping, state officials decided to open Wyoming parks for overnight stays.
“Our team is excited to be able to increase our economic impact to the State and local economies by bringing in our consumers from around the country.” Darin Westby, agency director of Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources said in a news release. “Our criteria for opening camping to non-residents has always been when surrounding states opened their camping, and their respective COVID-19 cases began leveling. Now is the time.”
Regardless of residency, anyone interested in camping at a state park must go through the reservation system to secure a site at all locations except Hawk Springs State Recreation Area, some sites on the west side of Boysen State Park and Connor Battlefield State Historic Site. These campgrounds are still open on a first-come, first-serve basis.
While visitors do not have to reserve a campsite before traveling to a state park. However, once they find a campsite after reaching the park, they will have to use the reservation system to use that site.
Headquarters buildings at the various state parks have reopened, allowing for the sale of annual day-use and overnight camping permits. Visitors are asked to adhere to social distancing recommendations whether meeting in offices, recreating outside or working at fish cleaning stations.
Cabins and yurts are available for three-day reservations, Friday through Sunday. This will ensure all of the structures have been cleaned and disinfected prior to the next reservation.
Gordon’s original announcement limiting overnight stays to residents received mixed responses from residents, according to comments on the Cowboy State Daily Facebook page.
A few praised Gordon’s move to only allow only Wyoming residents to camp at the state parks, while others questioned how people could be properly monitored.
“How about opening up…COMPLETELY!!!” one commenter wrote. “Let Freedom Ring!!!”