Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb

Following the behind-the-scenes efforts by many, including the Indiana Manufactured Housing Association-Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council (IMHA-RVIC), private campgrounds and RV parks in Indiana can open Friday (May 22) – just in time for Memorial Day Weekend – as long as social distancing limitations and sanitation precautions are followed.

The news came Wednesday afternoon (May 20) during Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s COVID-19 briefing, during which he announced the entire state – with the exception of Marion, Lake and Cass counties – moves Friday into Stage 3 of the state’s “Back on Track” plan. Those three counties will advance to Stage 3 on June 1, unless localities change that date.

Initially, the planned opening date for Stage 3 was May 24, which would have kept campgrounds shuttered during the Memorial Day weekend. The new guidelines pushed the date back two days.

This was welcome news to Jim Kreutzjans, executive director at CERAland Park and Campground in Columbus, Ind.

“It’s exciting news. It’s good news for campers and campgrounds, that’s for sure,” he told WOODALLSCM.com. “My goodness. It’s been a long process. We’re taking it very seriously, but we’re happy to be able to open up for camping. Especially for Memorial Day weekend.”

CERAland has had a plan for social distancing in place for many weeks for all its campers, including providing informational handouts. While still waiting on full guidance from the governor’s office, Kreutzjans said playgrounds, basketball courts and other social gathering areas will remain closed for the time being.

“We haven’t gotten any guidance from him except that the campground is open,” he said. “So basically, we’re going to be open for camping, hiking, biking and just good outdoor fun.”

CERAland had Memorial Day reservations that were put on hold in hopes they could be honored. Some were refunded, some were moved and others remained. “But now our phone is starting to ring again for the rest of the weekend and that’s fantastic news for us,” he said.

Ron Breymier

Also elated by the news was Ron Breymier, executive director of the IMHA-RVIC.

“We are extremely pleased to learn that Gov. Holcomb is opening campgrounds in Indiana,” Breymier told WOODALLSCM.com. “We strongly believe this is the right decision. With RV production and sales increasing, the entire RV industry needs to have campgrounds open so consumers have places to use the very products we make in Indiana. There is no better place than a campground to naturally practice social distancing”.

‘Tireless’ Effort to Convince State Officials

Breymier explained that initially there was an understanding with the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) that private campgrounds could remain open with appropriate restrictions. But after one weekend of state park campgrounds not adhering to social distancing, all campgrounds were ordered closed with an exception for people living in RVs and cabins who had no other viable housing option.

Breymier said IMHA-RVIC then worked to get Indiana campgrounds open for people working in essential businesses and services and also “submitted a detailed plan for safely and cautiously opening campgrounds first for seasonal campers with self-contained units and then to other campers prior to the Memorial Day holiday.”

“As an organization, IMHA-RVIC and its staff worked tirelessly with top legislative leaders, key legislative committee members, our Congressional delegation and RV industry leaders to open the private campgrounds. It was a team effort and we appreciate the partnership of organizations like the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), the RV Industry Association (RVIA), the RV Technical Institute (RVTI), the National Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) and other RV industry leaders in advancing our message to open private campgrounds in Indiana” said Breymier.

He said District 2 U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, (R-South Bend), Speaker of the Indiana House Todd Huston, President Pro Tempore of the Indiana Senate Rod Bray, State Rep. Doug Miller, State Sen. Blake Doriot, State Sen. Mike Crider (chair of Senate Transportation and Homeland Security committees), State Rep. Bob Cherry (vice-chair of Indiana House Ways & Means Committee), and the offices of U.S. Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun all contacted the governor in support of opening Indiana’s private campgrounds. Several RV industry leaders also sided with the IMHA-RVIC and contacted the governor’s office with the following message:

“On behalf of Indiana’s $32 billion RV and camping industry, please reopen Indiana’s private RV parks and campgrounds prior to Memorial Day weekend.”

Matt Rose

Matt Rose, director of recreational vehicles for IMHA-RVIC, said Wednesday’s decision was essential for the state’s campgrounds and RV parks, explaining that many seasonal campgrounds never had the chance to open this spring and have not generated any revenue since last fall.

Also, most campgrounds collected pre-paid reservations for high-demand holiday weekends – Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day. Already strapped for revenue because they have been closed since March, having to refund Memorial Day reservations would have been devastating.

“We were told by some campgrounds that if they could not open until Sunday May 24th, they would never open this summer and would never recover financially,” Rose told RVBUSINESS.com.

Additional Stage 3 Guidance

Other changes set to take effect as part of the Stage 3 Back on Track plan include:

  • Hoosiers 65 and older and those with known high-risk medical conditions should limit exposure at work and in their communities
  • Continue remote work when possible
  • Face coverings are recommended
  • Social gatherings of up to 100 people may take place following the CDC social distancing guidelines. The coronavirus is often spread among groups of people who are in close contact in a confined space for an extended period of time. This limit applies to wedding receptions, parties, and other events where people are in close physical contact for extended periods of time
  • Nursing homes remain closed to visitors; nursing home guidance will continue to be evaluated
  • No travel restrictions

What opens

  • Retail stores and malls may move to 75% of capacity while maintaining social distancing
  • Mall common areas, such as food courts and sitting areas, are limited to 50% capacity
  • Gyms and fitness centers may open with restrictions. Class sizes and equipment must be spaced to accommodate social distancing. Limited class sizes. Equipment must be cleaned after each use, and employees are required to wear face coverings
  • Playgrounds, tennis courts, basketball courts, and similar facilities may open with social distancing guidelines in place
  • Community pools may open according to CDC guidance
  • Campgrounds may open with social distancing limitations and sanitation precautions
  • Movie theaters may open at 50% capacity; some theater companies have identified specific hygiene and social distancing guidelines
  • The CDC will provide guidance about day camps and overnight camps

What remains closed

  • Bars and nightclubs
  • Cultural, entertainment, and sports venues
  • K-12 facilities and activities

CDC social distancing guidelines

  • Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people
  • Do not gather in groups
  • Stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings

Governor Holcomb is expected to sign the new Executive Order today (May 21.)