Sleeping Bear Dunes closes after visitors flock to park, fail to social distance

Apr 14, 2020

More and more people have been visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as the weather warms up. 

Now, the park located in Empire is closed to all visitors. 


The popular tourism area shut down after an influx of people did not social distance while visiting the park last weekend.

Trails, trailheads, picnic areas and boat launches are closed until further notice, says Deputy Superintendent Tom Ulrich. 

“Our rangers have contacted several parties who have disclosed they actually traveled up here from locations downstate in COVID hotspots, specifically to come up and vacation and hike the trails,” Ulrich says. 

The full park closure comes after rangers closed the restrooms a couple weeks ago after some visitors vandalized the restrooms, ripping out sanitizer dispensers and stealing toilet paper. 

After rangers locked them, people defecated outside the bathrooms, Ulrich says.

If people continue to show up, rangers will ask them to leave, and might write citations if instructions are not followed, Ulrich says.

It's not a surprise people want to visit he adds.

“Undoubtedly it’s because people are feeling cabin fever and want to get out. For the park and park staff, we’d normally welcome that,” he says, noting that it's different now because of COVID-19.