Campground Owner Dismayed by New 9% Tax

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July 1, 2009 by   - () Leave a Comment

logo_1Bob Bradley, owner of Blake's Brook Campground in Epsom, N.H., pointed to a small piece of land with un-mowed grass, wet from the recent stretch of rainy days. 

The plot wasn't one of the 50 campsites at Bradley's outdoor vacation spot, but he referred to it nonetheless. He wanted to make a point about the state budget, passed by the Legislature last week, according to the Concord Monitor

He doesn't want the rooms-and-meals tax extending to campgrounds. And he doesn't like the way it was done, either, saying it was pushed through under the cover of darkness. He smells a cat burglar sneaking into the House – and Senate – while many slept. 

But at least Bradley has a sense of humor about it. For now. 

"So now on that piece of dirt, you went from zero to 9%," said Bradley, 61, who's made camping an integral part of his life. "That's a new tax, to use my dirt. You bring your room, you bring your meals, and then we tax you." 

Battle lines are in the air, evolving on different fronts. The confrontational climate wrapped around a giant deficit and a major recession is unmistakable. 

new-hampshire-logoBradley is listed in the New Hampshire Campground Owners Association, a peaceful bunch of about 140 people mobilizing to fight. They fear they'll lose business over something they see as a drastic move, a shock to the state's tourism system. 

After all, they say, raising the tax from 8% to 9% on meals and hotel rooms is one thing, but moving the tax from 0% to 9% on camping fees to help solve the state's financial crisis? In the blink of an eye, with no gradual increase to help owners and campers digest it? 

"If they had handled it differently and graduated up, you can get used to it," Bradley said. "But it's a new tax." 

Bradley's been a camper all his life. He and his wife raised their daughters in Marlborough, Mass., where Bradley worked for an electronics company and his wife, Cindy, worked for a bank. 

They spent memorable weeks camping in Florida, saving money on trips to Disney World. They camped in Maine and went to the beach. They camped in Vermont and here in New Hampshire. 

"It was family time," Bradley said. "It was very big with us." 

So big, in fact, the couple quit their jobs, sold their house and bought the Epsom campground 14 years ago. 

"It was a dream, and we thought we'd buy a lifestyle," Bradley said. "And that's what it is, a lifestyle and an investment in retirement." 

Bradley invested money to spruce the place up. He also built two rental cabins and began paying the rooms-and-meals tax on them.

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