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Vacation towns to feel the pinch

Ft. Wilkins.org Fort Wilkins State Park is not among the facilities listed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The DNR has said it will suspend the requirement of day passes at state park facilities, tentatively, through April 13.

COPPER HARBOR — Michigan’s northernmost town has no businesses that are defined as essential under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s orders to suspend operations of all non-essential businesses.

The Copper Harbor Improvement Association, in publishing an announcement on the Copper Harbor website, maintained a sense of humor in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak:

“A word from the Mayor,” the announcement begins, “Just kidding. We don’t have a mayor!”

The announcement goes on to state that the CHIA will whole-heartedly welcome visitors back “to our little town once the world’s current situation clears up and our businesses are able to re-open their shops, restaurants, motels and doors in general … Feel free to plan your vacation for when you are able to return here in the next couple/few months… nobody really knows.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order, which took effect on March 24, directing all non-essential Michigan businesses and operations to temporarily suspend in-person operations. The order also directs Michiganders to stay in their homes unless they are essential workers, aiding in the health and safety of themselves or family, such as going to the hospital, grocery store, or pharmacy.

The “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, however, does allow Michigan residents to enjoy outdoor activity, as long as they continue to practice safe social distancing.

In response to Gov. Whitmer’s order, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on Monday announced it would close state park campgrounds, overnight lodging facilities and shelters, effective through at least April 13. State parks and recreation areas will remain open to provide residents with opportunities to get outdoors, provided all visitors adhere to the requirement for proper social distancing – at least six feet between “yourself and another person – in all areas of the parks.”

State and federal health officials repeatedly have pointed to the physical and mental health benefits of spending time outdoors, especially at a time when many are feeling house-bound, a DNR press release stated . DNR Director Dan Eichinger stressed that while Michigan state parks and recreation areas, state boat launches, state forests and other state-managed resources are open to help meet those needs, he wants to make sure those options remain open.

“Gov. Whitmer’s executive order requires people to follow the CDC guidelines and stay at least 6 feet away from other people when outside of their own households, to the greatest extent possible,” Eichinger said. “We want residents to use and enjoy our public outdoor spaces, but we ask them to do so responsibly and safely, whether in a forest, on a trail or in a parking lot.

“If it becomes evident that people are not practicing effective social distancing while visiting these state-managed resources, we will close them to protect the health of our visitors and our staff.”

A March 13 announcement listed that a number of locations to be impacted by closures from March 14 to at least April 13:

These are closed-door facilities that draw large numbers (over 100) of people during the day.

* The Outdoor Adventure Center, the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory and theBelle Isle Aquarium (Detroit).

* The Michigan History Museum and Archives of Michigan (Lansing).

* The Michigan Iron Industry Museum (Negaunee).

* DNR visitor centers at state parks, and the Oden and Wolf Lake state fish hatchery interpretive center.

The Fort Wilkins State Park in Grant Township, Keweenaw County, does not appear on the list of closed facilities. However, public state-maintained public restrooms and vaulted toilets will be closed to public use.

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