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Some campsites to reopen, but Nebraska beaches closed because of large gatherings
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Some campsites to reopen, but Nebraska beaches closed because of large gatherings

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RV camping

RVs fill a campground on the south shore of Branched Oak Lake in 2011. 

Good news, bad news for state park users: The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission plans to reopen some RV campsites later this month, but has closed beaches and swimming areas because of recent gatherings that numbered more than 100 people.

In early April, the state announced it was closing nearly 11,000 improved and primitive campsites in parks and recreation and wildlife management areas to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, it said it planned to reopen limited RV camping starting May 20 — but only at parks where social distancing and group-size limits can be maintained. It will publish a list of available park areas on its website, and reservations will be required.

The move comes with specific restrictions:

* Designated sites will be spaced at least 25 feet apart.

* Each campsite will be limited to eight guests, and stays limited to seven days.

* Only self-contained RVs with factory features that hold potable water, contain wastewater and connect to electrical service will be allowed.

* No park showers or modern restrooms will be open. Vault toilets and RV dump stations will be open.

* Mormon Island State Recreation Area near Grand Island and Danish Alps near Hubbard, both close to COVID-19 hot spots, won’t make the list. The state will also add or remove park areas from the list on the recommendations of health officials.

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* Campsites can be reserved online beginning May 17 at OutdoorNebraska.org and prepaid. First-come, first-served and tent camping will not be allowed.

Beach party busted near Hickman, but tickets are for booze, not crowd violations

Tent-campers and cabin-renters will have to wait longer. The state extended the closure of cabins, lodges and tent camping — originally set to reopen Friday — until at least May 31. Those who had reservations can contact Game and Parks for refunds or rescheduling.

And the state announced it was closing designated beaches and swimming areas after its conservation officers and other law enforcement agencies broke up large gatherings at Wagon Train Lake, Fremont Lakes and Schramm Park, said spokeswoman Christy Firestone.

“These violations of the 10-person rule and not maintaining social distancing puts staff and others at risk,” she said, though she didn’t believe officers have issued any citations for virus-related rules.

Other waterfront and shoreline areas will remain open for fishing and day use, as long as limits are maintained.

State of Nebraska closing nearly 11,000 campsites because of coronavirus
Parks still open, but state closing offices, lodges, visitor centers

Photos: Lincoln during the pandemic

Reach the writer at 402-473-7254 or psalter@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSPeterSalter

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