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New York’s Private Parks Brace for New Business

May 25, 2010 by   - () Leave a Comment

Unless a last-minute deal to be pitched today by New York Gov. David A. Paterson is approved, seven parks in the Thousand Islands region won’t be open Memorial Day weekend — and private campgrounds are picking up new business as a result, according to The Journal, Ogdensburg, N.Y.

With the state budget in limbo, there is no funding to open those state parks that were chosen by Paterson to close to help offset a massive $9.2 billion state deficit, despite Senate and Assembly budget proposals that include state park funding.

“We’re not accepting camping reservations for those state parks. They don’t have any services available to them,” said Daniel L. Keefe, spokesman for the New York State Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation.

Keefe said that he was unsure how long it would take to get the state parks slated for closure open and ready for campers if the budget is approved with the funding restored.

Many are choosing to not visit the area at all, which is a loss of tourism revenue for the north country, according to Ellen M. Nesbitt, associate director of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.

“If they can’t get into their favorite state parks, they are going somewhere else in the state, probably going out of state even,” said Nesbitt, “We’re concerned, we’re very concerned.”

Some of the business is going to the surrounding private campgrounds.

Lisbon Beach Campground Director Mike G. O’Neil said he’s definitely seen an increase in bookings and inquiries from campers and believes its related to the closed state parks.

“I think we will have seen an increase,” said O’Neil, who expects the 80 campsites to be filled for Memorial Day weekend, “We’ve had a lot of bookings from people who are not regulars.”

With Eel Weir State Park closed, the newly opened Riverlane Campground, formerly the Blevins Campground in the town of Oswegatchie, is receiving calls from some of Eel Weir’s exiled campers.

“We’ve already had two to three people make reservations for the Memorial Day weekend who had been staying at Eel Weir,” said Tim A. Youngs, co-owner of Riverlane Campground.

Candie Bliss, president of the Black Lake Chamber of Commerce, said that inquiries have spiked at private campgrounds that surround the lake, presumably due to the closed state parks.

The majority of the private campgrounds in the county are found near Black Lake.

However, those businesses are limited to how many families they can take in just by their size, according to the chamber president.

“While it seems we’ve had more inquiries than usual regarding tent and RV sites, the incremental opportunity for tent and RV campers on Black Lake is minimal since our limited capacity doesn’t provide much room for increased business in this particular way,” said Mrs. Bliss.

Brenda Hammitt, director of Massena International Campground, said that she has not seen any increase in business due to the state park closures, but that could change with the first long weekend of the vacation season fast approaching.

“It may if you have last minute people looking for campsites Memorial Day weekend,” she said.

She also pointed out that parks near Massena – Coles Creek and Robert Moses – are open and operating, meaning that visitors would not have to travel too far to find a campground along the river.

Not all campgrounds have seen an influx of visitors so far.

“Not yet, I haven’t,” said Donna Bassett with Bassett’s Captain Claytons, Route 12, Clayton, said when asked if she’s seen an increase in business. She did say last year that once Keewaydin and Cedar Point filled up, business did spill over to her campground site.

John A. Ward, owner of Riverside Campgrounds, Brasher Falls, said that his business has been steady so far this spring and he’s hoping that he will see some interest from tourists who can’t stay at their favorite state park.

“We anticipated that we may have been getting some, but so far – no,” said Mr. Ward, adding, “I hope to get some.”

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