Campgrounds prepare for 2014 season

ESCANABA – Spring is finally here and for many that means it’s time to dust off the tents and recreational vehicles to prepare for summer fun. Many area campgrounds are preparing for the 2014 season after a long winter.

“We’re doing what we can to get some of the equipment ready. We’re doing staff interviews as well,” said Jason Truitt, lead ranger at J.W. Wells State Park.

J.W. Wells, located about 30 miles south of Escanaba, will be opening up its campground Wednesday for those who are interested in semi-modern camping. No modern bathroom facilities will be available, but all sites will have electricity.

“We don’t have our bathroom facility open. We don’t have that open until May 16,” said Truitt.

Those who are interested in fully-modern camping will have to wait until the water is turned on at the park. While campground staff are expecting the water to be on by May 16, a long winter with deep ground frost could delay water returning to the campground.

Until the water can be turned on the park staff is busy working on cleaning up downed trees and branches from the grounds and prepping the camp equipment.

“We’re putting in new fire rings in the campground so we’re looking to get started with that,” said Truitt.

Campers who prefer modern bathroom facilities will also have to wait for water at Indian Lake State Park, located four miles west of Manistique. Just like at J.W. Wells, campers who don’t mind using vault toilets can start staying at the park early. Sites with electricity are now available.

“We’ll probably have (bathroom facilities) open by the 12th when the walleye fishermen start showing up,” said Lee Vaughn, park supervisor at Indian Lake.

The walleye season opener is May 15, and with the waters of Indian Lake so close at hand, many anglers opt to stay at the park while they enjoy the fishing opportunities the Indian Lake has to offer.

Until then, the park staff are welcoming the visitors that are camping earlier as well as preparing the grounds for the influx of campers that come with the fishing season.

“We just put new toilet partitions in one of our bathrooms,” said Vaughn, adding that staff had also painted the park’s picnic tables.

Indian Lake State Park staff are also responsible for taking care of Kitch-iti-kipi, “The Big Spring,” at Palms Book State Park.

“It’s Michigan’s largest freshwater spring,” said Vaughn.

The 40-foot deep freshwater spring is located roughly nine miles north of Indian Lake State Park. Because Palms Book State Park does not have camping facilities available, some of the natural spring’s 50,000 to 60,000 annual visitors spend their nights camping at Indian Lake.

Upgrades to Palms Book are also planned for the coming year. New bathroom facilities are expected to be constructed this fall. The current facilities date back to the 1950s.

Campers looking for a smaller environment that’s not too far from home may opt to forgo state parks and spend their nights at the Gladstone Bay Campground.

“We open officially on May 15, but we do have a few people coming in early and we will attempt to accommodate them the best we can with the utilities that we have available,” said Gladstone Parks and Recreation Director Nicole Sanderson.

This year the campground will be gaining four additional electric-only sites and installing a dark sky lighting system. The system will replace light poles with lights at the sidewalk level, allowing campers a better view of the stars.

“It’s an ‘outdoorsy’ type of feel,” said Sanderson.