COLLIER CO., Fla. — It’s a familiar sight and sound.
Campers seeking the great outdoors. At Picayune Strand State Forest Campground, nature is calling and it’s just in time for Memorial Day Weekend.
“Everything is flush and lush and growing. The birds are out, the flowers are blooming, and it really is something of a call to come outside and play.”
Melinda Avni is a mitigation specialist with the Florida Forest Service. She says with Memorial Day Weekend fast approaching, plenty of families will be itching to get outside and smell some fresh air.
“Many folks are just ready to go. They’ve done what they need to do to stay safe, they’re getting ready to be prepared for how things are going to look forward in the new, new normal," she says. "We’re looking forward to seeing everyone be able to have a good time and to do so safely. We anticipate we’ll reach capacity for what that is for us.”
According to Kampgrounds of America, a whopping 18 million Americans are expected to go camping over the holiday weekend. About 4.3 million are estimated to be first time campers. With Florida considered one of the top 10 states for Memorial Day camping, Picayune’s reservation system is ready.
“Because we are using an online reservation system, that means when someone is looking for something they’ll be able to pick ahead- it will be there ready and waiting for them," says Avni. "It’s not a rush to try and beat someone else to it to get there first and grab the spot, you can pick it ahead and know it’s going to be there for you. This system does allow us to assure that those seeking to use can find a time that’s available and suitable for them.”
Aside from booking ahead, Avni recommends campers check burning conditions. Florida is an open burn state, however, some counties may enact certain burn bans.
“In times like that, we will not allow the use of hot cook stoves that some campers bring with them and we will not allow the firings to be used for a campfire. Should that be the case, we do tend to post that information on our kiosk and it would also be on our websites.”
And should conditions hold up, there’s probably no better time to seek the great outdoors.
“It really is the perfect time," Avni said. "The school year is ending, we’ve all been cooped up a bit and camping and outdoor recreation, in general, are some of the activities that they really build some of the most bonding memories for families. It’s a chance to get away from the normal and the routine and discover a little bit more about yourself and the world around you.”
You can find a fire map, as well as other helpful resources, by visiting the Florida Forest Service website.