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Washington State Parks brace for a busy Memorial Day weekend with eased COVID restrictions

Park officials are warning campers looking for last-minute reservations to make sure they have a backup plan.

SEATTLE — Washington state parks are expecting a busy Memorial Day weekend, as many return to summer travel under loosening pandemic restrictions, and with nice weather on deck for western Washington.

Parks officials said Friday that people should not expect to be able to get a last-minute camping spot for the weekend, and warned people to also have a backup plan when visiting popular day-use sites. Though specific usage numbers weren't available, the online reservations tool returned few available sites statewide.

Washington State Parks chalk the surge up to the first holiday weekend with eased restrictions. 

“Yeah, we always recommend that people when they head out, if they're going on for a day visit to have a plan B, you can pick a general area where there are state parks, and if one of the parks is busy, follow the path to another state park that might not be as busy,” said Toni Droscher with Washington State Parks.

Shelley and Ed Hennemann from Whatcom County drove to Saltwater State Park in Des Moines with a reservation for one of the last camper berths. They said they’ve been doing some early season camping to beat the rush – a weekend at Deception Pass, and one coming up at Larrabee State Park.

“Because after this, you can’t find a place to go camping at all!” Shelley Hennemann said. “I booked them in advance. I’m already booked for Labor Day only because you can’t get in.”

They’re not the only ones looking to enjoy the great outdoors. Travel industry giant AAA predicts a significant rebound in Americans hitting the road Memorial Day weekend – more than 37 million people are expected to go 50 miles or more from home.

That’s an increase of 60% from last year, but still 13% lower than 2019.