Forces of nature have dealt tourism in Marion County another blow as the outbreak of COVID-19 forces camping at area lakes to close.
The pandemic ushers in yet another season of uncertainty at Marion Reservoir after repair efforts this past winter reopened sites at Marion and Hillsboro Coves and French Creek that were damaged by record flooding.
For now, the boat ramp at Marion Cove is open. Boating and fishing are still allowed — even at the newly completed dam spillway, assistant lake manager Kevin McCoy said.
Visitors are asked to maintain appropriate social distance, he said.
The swimming beach is closed along with as the reservoir’s office, but staffers are still available to the public, McCoy said.
“If you need anything, please leave a message,” McCoy said. “We will return the call as soon as possible.”
As of press time, campground reservations booked after May 15 are being accepted, but that could change, said McCoy.
“With the COVID outbreak ... the situation is very fluid,” he said. “It changes on me daily.”
No more than 10
Camping at the county lake, its heated dock, and lake hall will be closed until April 3 to discourage groups of more than 10 from gathering, director Isaac Hett said.
If the COVID-19 outbreak is still a threat two weeks from now, campsites will stay closed.
Fishing and boating are still allowed and the office will stay open, but the public is asked to phone to get questions answered, he said.
“If you need something, we will still provide our basic services,” Hett said.
Hett said many visitors were unhappy about the decision to shut the heated dock, but groups larger than the 10 banned by both county and local orders, were seen fishing there.
The lake draws visitors from many communities, creating even more of a need to follow health directives and keep people safe, he said.
“I would hate to have someone come here and get it out here,” Hett said.
Meanwhile, Hett said he hoped the threat posed by the virus would die down — and soon.
“Hopefully it doesn’t last long,” he said.