Campgrounds Experience Busy Fourth Holiday
As expected, Americans turned out in droves to the nation's RV parks and campgrounds to celebrate the Fourth of July and get away from their cares and worries, if only for a short while.
For many operators, the holiday serves as a barometer to gauge the popularity of camping for the summer season. A packed campground on Independence Day typically means the remainder of the summer will be busy
Reports from across the nation's media report a busy 72-hour period:
Campgrounds in the Shoals area across the northern part of the state were packed over the holidays, according to the Florence Times Daily.
"We are full," said Tim Haney, superintendent of Joe Wheeler State Park in Rogersville. "Camping went through a little downturn back in the fall, and it was slow in the spring when it was raining almost every day. But the summer is looking like it's going to be a good one for camping."
Haney said the park's campground was full the past three weekends, along with the lodge, cabins and chalets.
Todd Nix, community services director for the city of Florence, said the city's campgrounds at McFarland and Veterans parks were full this weekend.
"Camping is an all-American activity. There's not a better way to spend the Fourth of July," Nix said.
Four campgrounds operated by the Bear Creek Development Authority in Franklin County also were full, including one that reopened only three weeks ago after being closed for more than two years while repairs were being made on Bear Creek Dam west of Russellville.
Nix and Haney said many campers at local parks this year are from within a 50-mile radius of the Shoals.
While a slow economy boosts the popularity of camping, it also tends to limit how far campers are willing to travel from home, Nix said.
Many of the summertime campers use air-conditioned recreational vehicles, but some use tents.
Nix said three tepees recently placed at McFarland Park were booked for the weekend.
"Some people don't mind heat," he said. "They say living in a tent on the Fourth of July is the way camping is meant to be."
Upper Michigan campgrounds have taken their lumps the past few summers, but campers found these lovely campgrounds over the Fourth, according to the Escanaba, Mich., Daily Press.
Jay Pepin, manager of Gladstone's Bay Campground reported there were no sites available for campers coming into Gladstone for the July 4 holiday weekend.
"We have been full for quite a while now, and we also have an extensive waiting list," said Pepin.
Rustic state campgrounds such as Twin Springs and Maywood Shores in the Hiawatha National Forest on the Stonington Peninsula also were filled to capacity as residents looking to get away for the holiday stuck closer to home.
Gary Brantz, Delta County Parks manager, reported there were a few sites available at Pioneer Trail Park for the holiday weekend.
According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website, J.W. Wells State Park in Cedar River reported 122 sites out of 128 sites had been reserved for the holiday weekend.
Indian Lake State Park in Schoolcraft County, according to the DNR, reported 103 sites having been reserved out of 188 total sites.
Fayette State Park on the Garden Peninsula reported 25 out of 55 possible sites had been reserved, while Tahquamenon Falls State Park was showing 223 reservations for the park's 238 available sites.
Even before the holiday weekend began, Florida parks were enjoying a business upturn.
The Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds says its members are seeing an increase in the number of people using their facilities, according to WMBB-TV, Panama, City.
The trend to save money and enjoy nature also is being felt at Florida's state parks.
Last year was a record for state parks in terms of attendance. Nearly 20.7 million (20,738,701) people visited one of the parks. More than 2.1 million (2,192,748) of those people spent the night.
This year's number will set another record.
Through the first 11 months of this fiscal year, which ended June 30, the number of visitors is running ahead of last year's total. Nearly 21 million (20,954,681) people had visited a state park.
"We have seen an increase in camping in general and generally over the last 10 years we've seen about a 70% increase in camping capacity. People are looking for affordable recreation and state parks are affordable, beautiful and families are loving to go," said Jessica Kemper, Florida Division of State Parks spokeswoman.
"Florida is typically known as the best camping state in the nation. It has a wide variety of campgrounds, it offers all kinds of different aspects as far as things to do, places to see, attractions to visit and the campgrounds in Florida can pretty much provide anything anybody's looking for," said Bobby Cornwell, Florida Association of RV and Campgrounds.
At campgrounds around Northern California, there were convoys of RVs rolling in and hooking up for the holiday weekend, according to KCRA.com, Sacramento.
Both KOA campgrounds in San Joaquin County were full, as families from around the Central Valley set up tents and barbequed in the shade. Some campers started booking a site a year ago, but many put in their reservations in the last few months.
"A lot of people, because of the economy, are deciding on camping instead of a plane or Disneyland, and drive in a car close to home," said Scott Haar, of Delta KOA.
Not everyone was busy, however.
KARE-TV, Minneapolis, visited the Maple Grove KOA and found the campground just 75% full.
"This back here would have been all filled up last year; but not this year," said Richard Mishler, campground manager, as he cruised the grounds in his golf cart last Friday.
This holiday weekend is typically a campground's busiest.
"People staying home watching those dollars and pennies," Mishler noted. On July 3, 2008, the station talked with Mishler and he was surprised because his campground was full. Gas was going for $3.93 per gallon back then and it wasn't stopping folks from coming out. Gas is about $1.50 per gallon cheaper right now, so Mishler blames the general economy.
"In this economy, some is better than none," Mishler remarked about this weekend's camper numbers.
"We love it here," Doris Boyce said Saturday. But Doris and her husband Jon noticed most of the license plates on the RVs surrounding them were from Minnesota. "Talked to one guy last weekend, they (him and his family) were only 12 miles from home," Jon said.
The Boyces didn't have much room to talk. They drove a whopping 22 miles to get from Edina to Maple Grove for the holiday. The reason: "You just don't know whether you're going to have a job, you just don't know what's going on so you're just kind of holding on to your money, not spending like you used to," Doris Bocye concluded.