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Families were able to return to campgrounds such as Pokagon State Park last week with Gov. Eric Holcomb advancing the date under which certain facilities could reopen under his Back on Track order, just in time for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

LAKE JAMES — The Indiana Department of Natural Resources opened up its reservation system for people wanting to get in a full weekend of camping this Memorial Day holiday on Thursday.

The campgrounds will reopen today at 8 a.m. after having been closed during the COVID-19 pandemic Hunker Down Hoosiers period put in place by executive order of Gov. Eric Holcomb. Indiana’s Stage 3 reopening of the state was not supposed to take place until Sunday but Holcomb moved it to today.

“Pretty soon (today) when you go on the website you’ll be able to make reservations,” said James Brindle, spokesman for the DNR.

Prior to Wednesday’s changes, the earliest one could make a reservation at a DNR campground was Sunday, and people had taken advantage of that.

“We did have some folks who wanted to get some Memorial weekend in,” Brindle said.

Brindle said people who made reservations for Sunday were going to receive phone calls or emails offering them the rest of the weekend.

People making new reservations must do so for the entire, three-day holiday weekend, Brindle said. That’s typical for a three-day holiday weekend.

People who had reservations canceled after the shutdown order went into effect in March are also going to be contacted to see if they want to make a new reservation. Those reservations made prior to the Back on Track order that allowed reservations to start on Sunday will not automatically have their reservations reinstated, Brindle said.

To make campground reservations, go to camp.in.gov.

All campgrounds are able to reopen under the governor’s order. At one time, Steuben County had a no-camping restriction that was more stringent than the state’s.

Information from the Steuben County Tourism Bureau indicated all of the major campgrounds were opening today.

Meanwhile, swimming beaches managed by the DNR will open Saturday. Public outdoor park pools will not be open this weekend.

Camp stores, saddle barns, boat rentals and other operations that campers enjoy will be open, but some may have limited hours during the weekend.

Park offices remain closed but lake permits, horse tags and off-road cycling permits can be purchased at entrance gates or online at ShopINStateParks.com.

Youth, rally and group camps remain closed. Playgrounds, shelters, recreation buildings and fire towers remain closed as well.

“The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is committed to ensuring that our guests and staff continue to have safe and memorable outdoor experiences at our state parks, state forests, fish and wildlife areas, nature preserves and state recreation areas in light of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19.),” a DNR news release said. “All facilities will be following COVID-19 social distancing and cleaning requirements. We ask that our guests work with us to do the same.”

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