It’s time to set up the pup tent, air out the sleeping bags and test the camping stove. Iowa Camping Kickoff Weekend is just ahead and reservations can be made as late as Wednesday if you’re interested in camping out in an Iowa park on Friday night.

Kevin Szcodronski, the State Parks Bureau chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, expects a busy weekend. Szcodronski says the first weekend in May is a good time to dust off the camping gear, make sure it’s all in good working order and head for the outdoors, especially after such a long winter of snow and ice. He says there will be all sorts of activities in each of Iowa’s parks this weekend.

All campgrounds will be open and the water will be switched on. “Just like we want the campers to get outside and enjoy it, we’ve been hustling,” Szcodronski says. “This is our busy time of the year, too. We get excited after the long winter to get the facilities open and cleaned up and to welcome the people back to their state parks.” While the past few years have seen a downturn in the economy, he says park usage has gone up during that time.

“People are looking for activities closer to home,” Szcodronski says. “We’re fortunate in Iowa. We don’t have a park entrance fee so you can come into any state park at no cost for day use, to hike and picnic and enjoy the outdoors.” There is a fee for overnight camping and use of cabins or lodges. For more information, visit ““.

By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City