Reopening Indiana: Stage 3 of Governor Eric Holcomb's reopening plan takes effect for much of state with beaches preparing for Memorial Day Weekend

PORTAGE, Ind. (WLS) -- Most of Indiana moves to Stage 3 of that state's reopening plan Friday.

Governor Eric Holcomb made it official Thursday, signing a new executive order that eases restrictions in all but three counties.

The new order means gatherings of 100 people will now be allowed, stores and malls can be at 75 percent capacity, gyms, YMCAs, and fitness studios can open with restrictions and campgrounds can open, along with part of the Indiana Dunes National Park.

More beaches across the lakeshore will also reopen this weekend, and big crowds are expected for the Memorial Day Weekend.

"This is a hectic week for our staff," said Supervisory Park Ranger Bruce Rowe. "We're behind because of the pandemic but we're getting our 15 miles of beach ready for what we expect to be a very busy and perhaps very crowded beach"

National Park Service officials will be monitoring overcrowding and will close it if needed.

"Two weeks ago we shut down a beach in the national park because of overcrowded dangerous conditions, if that becomes necessary we'll do that again," Rowe said.

Some beaches will remain closed because of erosion, including Central Avenue Beach, and Portage Lakefront Beach But many will be open so you are being asked to spread out.

"One of the things we are doing is urging people to go to larger beach areas like West Beach here in Portage," Rowe said. "There is more room here, we've got about two miles of beach. We are actually waving the fees at this beach to encourage more people to use this one rather than our smaller beaches."

More staff will come back to work too. The beaches will have lifeguards by this weekend, custodial staff, law enforcement staff as well.

Beach-goers in Indiana are encouraged to follow CDC guidelines. For more information on what's open, visit

While the majority of Indiana enters Stage 3 Friday, the three exceptions are Lake, Marion, and Cass counties due to their higher infection rates. They're scheduled to enter Stage 3 on June 1.
Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.