Hoosier Campgrounds See Downturn
Gas prices at $4 a gallon are forcing some Hoosier campers and boaters to plan their recreational activities closer to home.
Ira and Linda Werker have managed Pike Lake Campground, Warsaw, Ind., for the past 15 years. Ira said there was a drastic decrease in campers last Memorial Day weekend, according to the Warsaw Times-Union.
The campground has 92 campsites, and only 14-15 sites were rented during the weekend. Ira said there are normally 25-30 sites reserved during the holiday weekend.
Pike Lake Campground’s season runs from April 15 to Oct. 1, and its busiest months are in June and July, according to Ira.
He said he received more phone calls from local residents inquiring about camping at Pike Lake Campground than they had actual campers last weekend.
“We were not even at 50% capacity over Memorial Day weekend when we are normally booked the week before Memorial Day,” Ira said.
The Werkers think high gas prices are contributing to the decrease in campers at the campground.
“Camping is a luxury, and when fuel and food prices are as high as they are, families are being forced to cut camping out of their budget,” Linda said.
Family Cutbacks Discouraging
She said they didn’t see as many families with children over Memorial Day at the campground as in previous years when they normally see 50-60 children. There were approximately 12 children over the weekend at the campground.
“It saddens me to see families have to cut camping out of their budget because it is quality family time,” Linda said.
Children have learned to bike, swim and about campfire safety at Pike Lake Campground, she said.
The Werkers said they think the campground will draw fewer families and more retired, older couples and professionals this summer due to high fuel costs.
Ronald and Janess Leming, Marion, Ind., have been seasonal campers at the campground for the past five years. Ronald said they save money in the winter so they can camp and fish in Kosciusko County.
“Pike Lake Campground is the most economical place to camp because there are several lakes nearby and Wal-Mart is down the road,” Ronald said as he docked his fishing boat at Pike Lake Wednesday afternoon.
In previous years, the couple brought their pontoon boat along with their fishing boat, but with high gas prices, decided to leave the pontoon boat at home this year. Janess said high gas prices have forced them to take fewer trips to Marion to make visits.
“When we visit Marion, we try to get all of our doctors’ appointments, upkeep on our home and family gatherings done at once,” Janess said.
Fishermen Stay Close to Home
Ralph Laramie, Plymouth, has been camping and boating at Pike Lake for the past nine years and camped at Pike Lake Campground Memorial Day weekend.
“It was like a ghost town where there were not as many people camping as last Memorial Day,” Laramie said.
Laramie said he went to Wisconsin three weeks ago to fish and left his boat at home. He rented a boat and paid $5 a gallon for fuel for the rental boat.
Billy Sitts, Mentone, docked his boat Wednesday afternoon at Pike Lake. He said high gas prices are keeping him closer to home for camping and boating activities. He said he spends $60 to fill the 15-gallon tank in his fishing boat.
“I used to go to Wisconsin and Minnesota to go fishing, but can’t because of the high fuel prices,” Sitts said.
Mike Cox, who lives on the south side of Winona Lake, fished on the lake Wednesday afternoon and said high gas prices have kept him closer to home.
“I’m not traveling to fish like I used to, and am fishing more locally because of high fuel prices,” Cox said.
He said it costs him $80 to fill his 16-gallon tank on his fishing boat.
Bruce and Marilyn Elliott, Warsaw, own a recreational vehicle. For the first time in eight years, they will not travel out West this summer due to high fuel costs.
“The high gas prices are taking the fun out of camping,” Marilyn said.
Bruce said the high gas prices are slowing down their recreation plans.
“It’s a shame the fuel prices are high because we look forward to traveling and seeing our friends, but the high fuel prices are slowing us down,” Bruce said.
Kosciusko County Community Fairgrounds has seen a slight decrease in campers at its fairground, according to Sue Goshert, fairgrounds office manager.
The campground season runs from May 1 to Oct. 1.
Goshert said there are 44 sites at the campground, and 11 were occupied over Memorial Day weekend. She said camping is down by about four to five campers compared to last season.
“We hope gas prices will not keep people from coming to camp at the fairgrounds, but I think it might,” Goshert said.
She said she expects the campground will pick up in July when people camp during fair week July 7-12.