Campgrounds to reopen at 28 California state parks

Nearly three months after California closed campgrounds at all of its state parks due to the coronavirus, campsites at 28 state parks are scheduled to reopen Friday and have begun taking reservations.

Most are in Southern California, along beaches from Santa Barbara to San Diego County, although several are around the Lake Tahoe Area and two are in the Greater Bay Area — Little Basin, a former Hewlett-Packard retreat center near Big Basin Redwoods State Park in Santa Cruz County, and Half Moon Bay State Beach on the San Mateo County Coast.

“We’re pleased that state parks will begin to provide additional recreational opportunities to the public,” said Gloria Sandoval, deputy director of the California Department of Parks and Recreation. “This is just the beginning.”

California has 280 state parks — a spectacular collection of landscapes from Sierra Nevada mountains to redwood forests to broad sandy beaches. Within those, there are roughly 13,000 campsites at 105 parks with camping for tents, RVs and in cabins. The parks opening for camping on Friday have 1,667 campsites.

State parks officials say they hope to open more campgrounds at more parks in the coming weeks.

Summer campground reservations in California are in great demand, and book up quickly, particularly along the coast.

To reserve a site, go to www.reservecalifornia.com

There is a complication: Anyone with existing campground reservations between Friday and June 21 had those reservations cancelled and must book again, Sandoval said. That’s because only half the spaces will be open at first in those campsites, and state officials decided not to randomly cancel half the bookings, but rather start with all new reservations.

People who have state parks campsite reservations after June 21 may have them cancelled if the campgrounds they are booked in have not yet reopened, Sandoval said. Parks officials are working with county health officers to open more campgrounds, and many of the reservations may be honored, she said. That will depend on how fast or slow COVID-19 spreads.

“The important message to everybody is that COVID still remains fluid,” she said. “The number of park units that we are reopening for camping can fluctuate depending on the public health orders. Our commitment is to keeping the public safe.”

Campers whose existing reservations are cancelled with be notified by email and refunded their money, Sandoval said.

Anyone with questions can call Reserve California at 1-800-444-7275.

The decision to begin to open some state parks campsites comes after the administration of Gov. Gavin Newsom issued new guidance last week that allowed county health officers around the state to reopen gyms, bars, hotels, campgrounds and other businesses, but with health safety conditions.

Southern California counties have been reopening businesses and other facilities generally at a faster pace than most Bay Area counties, despite the fact that about 80% of the roughly 4,800 COVID-19 deaths in California have occurred so far in five Southern California counties — Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, San Bernardino and Orange.

Under the first wave of state park campground openings, only about half the spaces in each campsite will be open to maintain social distancing, Sandoval said.