Camping Steady in Nation’s Heartland
Operators of campgrounds in the area of the Mississippi River’s Quad Cities say the current fuel situation could work in their favor by keeping more local campers close to home.
“A lot of us are concerned what the gas (situation) means, but in some sense it might be a positive,” said Roger Kean, the executive director of the Scott County Conservation Board, which oversees the county’s camping facilities, according to the Quad Cities Times, Davenport, Iowa.
“It’s early to tell, but if the (Memorial Day) holiday weekend is any indication we were full even earlier than usual at West Lake Park.”
Leon Hodges supervises the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi River Project, which oversees Corps facilities between Potosi, Wis., and Saverton, Mo. He also agrees it is early to judge how the season will go – especially since spring floods put some of the facilities out of business for awhile. “Reservation-wise, it looks like it’s going to be a good year. Everything’s shaping up for a good year if the river and Mother Nature just cooperate.”
Both Kean and Hodges said their facilities cater largely to the “local” camper – the person who lives within 50 to 60 miles. “We may actually see numbers increasing where people are staying closer to home,” Hodges said.
“The campers who drove 1 1/2 hours away might decide to stay here this summer,” Kean said, adding that those who drove to a Quad-City campground from an equal distance may choose a facility closer to home.
“People are still looking at it as a good outdoor form of recreation and fairly economical,” he said. “People like to camp, like to socialize, sit around the fire and have conversations with their friends.”
Tom Enyeart, the owner of Shabbona Creek RV near Atkinson, Ill., said customers who might have thought about something as extensive as a cross-country trip to California have altered their plans and are heading to the East Coast because it’s closer. “Most people are cutting their travel plans in half – they’re spending the same but cutting the trip in half. Even at $4 fuel, it’s still cheaper and frankly more fun than finding a hotel.
Kevin Broom of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) said the industry is seeing a 20% increase in RV rentals.
Similarly, Mark Thompson, the president of Thompson Family RV, Davenport, said his business is starting to see a market for foreign visitors – sparked by the value of the dollar and the ease of the Internet. He said one of his employees fielded a call from an Australian customer this week looking to buy an RV to travel the United States and sell it when the trip was over.
“Right now, it’s a good value to come to the United States. And $4 gas is cheap to them.”