Traveling Workers Help Keep Louisiana RV Parks Afloat
Campgrounds and RV parks nationally have seen a mild drop in visitors because of the recession, but campgrounds in the Louisiana’s Tri-parishes west of New Orleans are largely doing well, say local park owners.
Part of the reason is most campgrounds in the area accommodate workers coming in who need a place to stay, according to the Tri-Parish Times, Houma, La.
The 23 campsites at Linda’s Campground and RV Park in Gibson are usually used by workers.
“Travelers we haven’t had in God knows when,” said owner Linda Aucoin, “but workers come from Mission, Texas, and New Jersey. We’ve had people who stayed from Rhode Island. There’s no work in that area.
“I stay busy. I’m pretty much full year-round, but I don’t know about the end of the year. It’s all workers for companies working in this area.”
“Campgrounds in our area are not for recreation, they’re not like Jellystone,” said La Wanda Leger, owner of Hideaway Ponds, also in Gibson. “They’re for working people, except for Lake End Park in Morgan City. It’s a common problem in the campground industry, people wanting to live at the facility.”
Unlike other campgrounds in the Tri-parishes, Hideaway Ponds is a private membership club, “more like a country club,” Leger said. The facility’s 105 campsites receive few working people or drive-ins.
Leger has experienced a slight drop-off in visitors, but that is due more to the recent rainy weather than to the recession, she said.
And unlike other area campgrounds, Hideaway Ponds has a full-time activities director who coordinates dances, costume parties and hayrides.
“When gas goes up, it’s actually pretty good for (Louisiana) campgrounds because we get local visitors, not as much from out of state,” said LeAnne Everhardt, who sits on the board of the Louisiana Campground Owners Association.
Everhardt owns Land-O-Pines Family Campground in Covington, which has numerous rental units for travelers available. The park offers a full plate of social activities, including beach parties, luaus, a Renaissance weekend, a Hollywood-themed event and a ‘Battle of the Bands.’
“Instead of taking RVs out of state, they’re staying longer locally,” Everhardt said.
Linda’s Campground in Gibson has hookups for basic cable, a laundry room and a shower house. “So many campers have small bathrooms,” Aucoin said.
The campground saw more travelers when it opened in 1983, she said. Aucoin would refer them to Annie’s, Munson’s and Black Guidry’s swamp tours.
J & K Campgrounds in Galliano also serves mainly workers using the park’s 40 campsites.
Owner Taylor Plaisance said business has picked up since Hurricane Gustav last year.
“More or less it’s a camper park but it’s mostly homesteaders,” Plaisance said. “Workers boosted our economy. They brought campers with them.”
The site has no play area but it does have a fishing pond.
In St. Mary Parish, new campgrounds that opened in Amelia and Bayou Vista have presented competition, said Colleen Fontenot, owner of Morgan City RV Park.
“So we’re not as full as we can be,” Fontenot said.
“A lot of people live here, some come and go,” she said. “We’re like a workingman’s place. We’re not a recreation area.”
The location, which has 39 campsites, was converted to an RV park because of the demand for work in the area following Hurricane Andrew in 1992, she said.
Lake End Park, whose 147 campsites are owned by Morgan City, is one of the 7,000 to 8,000 public parks in the U.S. offering camping.
Lake End has seen more travelers from Louisiana and fewer from out of state, said Dianne Griffin, an office worker at the facility.
Like its privately-owned local counterparts, the park offers little or no social activities, except an Easter egg hunt.
“We’re strictly for campers, no cabins or RVs for rent, though cabins may be in the future,” Griffin said.
The park, on Lake Palourde, was the location for the filming of the first Tarzan movie ever shot.