In Midst of Pandemic, Resorts Prepare For Summer Guests

By Sarah Kocher | May 12, 2020

RICHMOND, Minn. — Families are waiting to see what their summer vacations will look like in the midst of a pandemic, but some of the places preparing to host them are still making plans.

At Riverside Resort on the Horseshoe Chain of Lakes, May 1 would have marked the first day of a typical season, Joe DeRose recently said. He and his wife, Christina DeRose, own Riverside Resort.

This is not a typical year, but the resort is still planning to help its customers celebrate their summers.

Riverside Resort offers cottage rentals, seasonal RV sites and short-term camping, all of which have different rules and guidelines in place from the state during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joe DeRose is on the board of Hospitality Minnesota, a trade group that represents restaurants, hotels and other lodging establishments.

“We’re all kind of navigating this new time period with different restrictions,” he told the St. Cloud Times.

While short-term camping is still not permitted, the seasonal RV park and cabins are allowed to be open.

“Our argument has been that a family of five or six, there’s other lodging establishments that would not be as safe as a singular cabin,” DeRose said.

At Riverside Resort, none of the cabins hold more than 10 guests, and the resort focuses on cleanliness, he said.

They will follow CDC guidelines for cleaning, Joe DeRose said, and make check-in contactless either by phone or online, Christina DeRose said.

Joe said they have always prioritized cleanliness and exceeding expectations, and feel well prepared for the situation.

The resort also hosts coordinated activities, like scheduled volleyball games, picnics and movies under the stars. The pair has already brainstormed new ways to provide activities for guests amid social distancing guidelines.

“We have a number of things that we don’t want to eliminate, but we want to modify to make it still work in this environment,” Joe said.

Even with the extension of the stay-at-home order to May 17, the resort is still able to host guests. It’s a bit of mixed messaging, Joe said, and people do gain some peace of mind if the governor says it is all right for people to travel.

“There’s some hesitancy for some to know where to proceed,” he said.

Still, apart from large groups — for example, a fishing tournament — there have not been many cancellations, Joe said, and he is starting to sense some optimism from people to get out on their vacations.

Joe said the majority of Riverside Resort’s guests are from within an hour’s drive, with a handful of out-of-state guests.

Their season typically runs May 1 through the middle of October, Joe said, but most of the time campers do not arrive until the fishing opener, and then in full force around Memorial Day weekend.

The resort has been fielding a number of questions from guests, but they seem ready to get out there — safely, Joe DeRose said.

Christina said she feels very excited about the summer season, despite the uncertainty. “People just need to be able to have a change of scenery for many reasons.”

Benton County Administrator Monty Headley said he expects the Benton Beach campground on Little Rock Lake, which has 44 campsites, to take about a week to prepare after camping restrictions lift.

That time is used for testing the well water, putting picnic tables out, cleaning and prepping facilities.

Over the past few years, the campground has been getting busier, Headley said. On some weekends, it nears capacity.

In 2018, the Benton Beach campground brought in $46,000 for the county in camping fees. This was up more than $14,000 from 2016.

“It’s certainly not a large revenue for us, but it definitely helps us with the cost of operating the campground,” Headley said.

Headley encourages anyone interested in camping at Benton Beach to call the county first to be sure it’s open, as it might not open immediately after the governor’s order expires.

Pre-pandemic, the campground was slated to open May 8.

“We’ll just watch and see what happens with the governor’s orders,” Headley said.

About the photo: A sign marks the entrance to the St. Cloud Campground & RV Park Tuesday, April 21, 2020, in St. Cloud, Minn. (Dave Schwarz/The St. Cloud Times via AP)

About Sarah Kocher

Kocher wrote this for the St. Cloud Times.

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