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News photo by Steve Schulwitz Doreen Kriniak, owner of Sports Unlimited, looks over an RV at the store on Friday. Alpena County campgrounds have been nearly full this past camping season, and Kriniak said the store has been busy, too.

ALPENA — Last year was a successful year for the three campgrounds owned by Alpena County, and park officials say this year’s camping season was just as good.

Alpena County Parks and Recreation Commission Chair Jeff Kowalski said Beaver Lake, Long Lake and Sunken Lake parks were near capacity this year, with guests coming from far and wide to enjoy the parks’ events and amenities.

The camping season runs from May 13th to October 15th and during this time each park hosts a range of fun and interactive events that have become very popular. Events like Christmas in July, Halloween in the Park and Harvest Festival, to name a few, draw families to enjoy the activities and entertainment.

“Last year was a top year and this year seems to be on par,” said Kowalski. “We have made and continue to make many improvements over the years and I think that has helped. We’re always working to keep the momentum we have.”

In recent years, Kowalski said, the parks have seen visitors with larger RVs that offer many of the amenities that homes offer. Many of these are seasonal campers who stay for the entire camping season and when short term campers arrive there is a need for additional pitches.

Kowalski said Sunken Lake has received permission from the state to use a portion of its day-use area for rustic campgrounds, and Long Lake Park may add more rustic lakefront campgrounds in the future. He said space at Beaver Lake Park is limited, but there might be room for a few more campgrounds and cabins.

If people don’t reserve their campsites early in the year, booking a premium property – such as a B. a campsite on the water – be a challenge. As the months progress, campgrounds fill up and those who haven’t acted early may be forced to find other camping options.

Currently, Kowalski said, one person would have to call camp managers on Jan. 2 to reserve spots for stays. He said that could change in the near future as an online reservation system is being considered, thanks to a potential change in the county’s website provider.

Kowalski said allowing customers to book online will make things easier and fairer for those who want to book specific days and times. He said if everything goes smoothly, the new system could be up and running in time for next year’s camping season.

“It would allow people not only to reserve a site, but to look at pictures of the sites and not have to deal with people and worry about making a call,” he said. “This would bring us into the 21st century and allow for a smoother planning process.”

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