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Sleeping Bear Dunes National park is open, brings back seasonal workers Monday

James Sisk |

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park plans to welcome back the majority of its seasonal workers on Monday, June 8.

Seasonal employees began coming back to work last week. The National Park has remained partially open throughout the COVID-19 crisis. 

Park Ranger, Merrith Baughman said the park brings about a hundred seasonal workers each year. She said operating without those employees has been one of the biggest challenges this season.

"We’re getting things ready," Baughman said. "It’s definitely not where it would normally be this time in June, but people can still come to the park (and) have a wonderful visit. We just ask people to make sure that they’re following social distancing recommendations."

She said it is difficult to know how many people are visiting the park during the pandemic. Baughman said she believes locals have been visiting, but some out of state license plates have been found at the park grounds.

The Deputy Superintendent for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, Tom Ulrich said seasonal workers typically come from out of state. He said with the previous state travel ban, employees unable to travel to the park for work.

"We’re still placing folks in quarantine upon their arrival," Ulrich said. "(Its) especially concerning if they’re coming from a place with a widespread COVID diagnosis."

He said because of that delay, the park's openings have been delayed.

Ulrich said park trails and the boat launch recently reopened when the region began to open up.

Camp grounds continues to be closed, as a part of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders. 

Baughman said the goal is to have the closed facilities, such as event facilities and the visitor center reopen by early July.  

Ulrich said the park is governed at the federal level, but the park has followed guidelines from the state as well.

Tess DeGayner is a student reporter for WCMU News. She is a senior at Central Michigan University studying Journalism and Broadcasting. Her hometown is Fenton, Michigan.