Ontario Campers Prove to be Hardy Bunch
Nothing is stopping people from enjoying their summer. That’s the case with Kim Burgess of Beeton, Ontario. It is what it is, she said when asked how vacationers are dealing with the high cost of gas and rainy weather.
“Life is short. You can’t not go somewhere. We’ll try to take one car, but sometime we’ll use two – we just do what we have to do,” she told the Midland (Ontario) Free Press, as she soaked in the rays at Bayfort Camp’s beach in Midland on Aug. 1.
She has camped at Bayfort Camp almost every weekend during the summer for the past five years.
High gas prices and poor weather conditions have not deterred her from enjoying life.
“We love to go away,” she said. “We would not spend our money other places so that we could go away in the summer.”
Andy Shulte and his family from Mannheim, Ontario, have come to Bayfort Camp for more than 10 years and said the high fuel prices and poor weather don’t keep them from camping.
“We don’t take many holidays,” he said while hooking up his fridge.
The Shultes vacation at the camp site during long weekends, and for a week in the summer. They camp about three times a year. The camping season was a slow start, according to Joseph Ogden, owner and operator of Bayfort Camp. “Now it’s starting to pick up.”
He attributes the slow start to high gas prices and poor weather conditions.
“Not very good weather for tenting, and they got to travel a lot farther; the gas prices slows them down. We’re getting a lot more people from the area than before.”
As for his campground’s forecast for the rest of the season, “ask the weatherman,” he said.
Bayfort Camp attracts locals as well as people from all over the world, including the Netherlands, Germany and France. It is a family campground on Georgian Bay that features 150 large lots, sandy beach, recreation hall, washroom facilities and playground. The Ogden family has operated the campground since 1945.
National Park Staff Reaches Out
Ethan Meleg, manager of visitor experience and communications for Georgian Bay Islands National Park in Midland, said it’s been a slower season compared to last year.
“Last year was an excellent year. This year we’re down a little bit,” he said. “It’s difficult to get exact stats because there are so many access points to the island, but we’re definitely down, I think, like many other tourism businesses.” He attributes it to the wet summer.
“When you’re camping or boating, that can be a bit of a turnoff,” he said. He said gas prices have also attributed to the low attendance.
To attract campers to the site, the park has done more outreach.
“We’re in the communities doing displays about the park and we’re attending special events to make them aware of the park with the intent they come to visit,” said Meleg.
Last summer was better because of the weather, he said, and the rest of this season is dependent on it.
Campers come from the region and even from Quebec and parts of Europe.
The camp on Beausoleil Island has 82 sites, and is close to the water. There are also remote campgrounds elsewhere on the island that are boat-accessible.
Joyce Marshal of Bellfalls campground in Waubaushene said the weather and high price of gas have hurt the site’s attendance.
“(As for high) gas (prices), what we’re finding is we’re still getting people, but we’re getting them from a half-hour radius,” she said.
She said cabin sales have been up by about 50% since last year.
Zac Marshal disagrees that high fuel prices are deterring people from camping.
“Everybody is shortening their distance to camp,” he said. “They don’t come because of the weather, but as soon as the sun came out the phone hasn’t stopped (from ringing).”
Compared to last season it’s been a slow summer for the Waubaushene campground, which offers a movie night for children, a karaoke night and a fireworks display.
“Camping is sort of a different thing. Camping has always been an economical holiday – it always has been,” he said. “The only thing we’re finding is that the people who are camping used to travel in the states now they’re staying home. If we can keep the nice sunny weather, the campgrounds will be full.”