City Backs Off of Hefty Campground Rate Hike

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July 12, 2010 by   - () Leave a Comment

Paul and Flo Slater arrived at Sugar Hollow Park’s campground in Bristol, Va., Friday (July 9) just as city officials rolled back a portion of some recent fee increases.

On July 1, fees for park campsites with electricity rose from $12 to $30 and those without power doubled from $10 to $20. The increases sparked a number of complaints, however, so city leaders last week reduced the campsite fees to $22 and $19, respectively – with city residents receiving an additional $3 discount, the Bristol Herald reported.

The Florida couple was happy to pay the slightly lower rate, but said even that seemed high compared to other campgrounds they’ve visited with more amenities.

“We were at the gate when they lowered them,” Flo Slater said Friday morning. “About everywhere we’ve been the rate has been less. We wouldn’t have paid $30, but $22 was OK for a stopover.”

On Thursday morning the couple left a Georgia campground – where they paid $20 nightly – and is en route to the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia, she said.

“This is a beautiful setting, but we had a hard time getting level and there isn’t water to hook up to. We have electric, but it seems like the most level sites don’t have electric,” she said.

Approved as part of the city’s fiscal 2010-11 budget, the increases affect charges for camping, shelter rental, using sports fields and athletics programs, and reflect the first increases in decades, said Kevin Dye, director of the city’s department of parks and recreation.

“I don’t believe there’s been a fee increase in 20 to 30 years. Our fees just haven’t kept up and we were losing so much money, so in an attempt to balance the budget we raised all of the fees,” Dye said.

The reaction from campers was swift during the July 4th holiday weekend.

“We’ve gotten some negative feedback, so I met with the city manager and we decided to lower the fees. We’ve heard a lot of concerns from local citizens who use the campground,” Dye said.

Among them was Jackie Thurston, a retired police officer who regularly takes his camper to Sugar Hollow.

“I think they over-reached. It’s a nice campsite but that price is entirely too much,” Thurston said of the initial increases. “Part of them [sites] have no electricity and there’s no sewage, no cable TV and no activities up there. I like it because I can go there and read, but I’m retired, but people with children need something for them to do.”

In making the changes, Dye said, he reviewed the rates of 14 regional campgrounds and tried to develop a fee structure that would be competitive in the market.

“The average price of 14 campgrounds I found online was $25 a night. Some have more amenities than us, some less,” Dye said. “We had to have an increase. We don’t have a choice, but we’re trying to make it less painful.”

The rollback affects only camping rates.

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