MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Sugar Lake Lodge is near Grand Rapids and its definitely a place to explore the outdoors. Guests come from across the Midwest. Fire pits and docks are actually part of major changes the lodge made during COVID-19.

“We are going to do some paddle boarding this morning. Paddle boarding and kayaking,” said John Grindeland of St. Anthony.

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During COVID-19 restrictions last year, business dropped nearly 70% at Sugar Lake Lodge. But over the course of last summer and into this one, it’s bounced back. And Minnesotans aren’t the only ones coming here.

“We are very pleased with it. Grandkids are 20 to 6 years old and there’s something for all of them to do,” said Jane Lyons, visiting from Wisconsin.

“The quarantine was hard on people. They want to get out there and especially to a place like this with so many outdoor activities,” said Ashley Hansen, visiting from Illinois.

And the number of outdoor activities at the resort actually increased over the past year. General manager Abby Oxborough says they doubled their number of paddle boards and kayaks to help visitors practice social distancing. They also put more fire pits and docks in front of cabins.

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“We figured why not build a bunch of them from the shore down to the beach. For people to utilize and they gravitated towards them immediately,” said Oxborough.

With many restrictions gone, families are getting back together. Hospitality Minnesota reports that about 50% of resorts and campgrounds said business has returned to normal.

“We are booked through the entire season already. It’s working out for us in a new way,” said Oxborough.

Sugar Lake will continue to use some of the changes they made during the pandemic, but they also realized people just want to explore what’s in their own backyard.

“The thing we found out is families getting together, renting multiple units on their own, that’s our sweet spot,” said Oxborough.

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Hospitality Minnesota said about 70% of resorts and campgrounds now have a positive outlook on the future.

John Lauritsen