Profaizer: Similarities in U.S./Nova Scotia Parks
Nova Scotia is a very beautiful province that reminds me a lot of New England. Big draws, of course, are water, seafood and MUSIC. Some parks will have extemporaneous “kitchen” bands, while several park owners say their clientele follows the music festivals around the province, staying at parks along the way.
I have just returned from a two-week assignment for the Travel Industry Association of Nova Scotia and was pleasantly reminded of how much I enjoy working with campground owners and managers. The assignment was to work on a mentoring program with 20 campgrounds – helping them with trends, priorities, amenities, marketing and generally anything else they wanted to talk about.
As expected, park owner issues in Nova Scotia are not much different than those in the States. In other words, more time and money would help solve a lot of issues!
One of the differences they do have to deal with is the fact that they have a population of 1 million people to draw from (the population of the province) and half of the people live in Halifax. Since most of the parks’ campers are “local” (i.e. from Nova Scotia), this can be a challenging fact of life. In the U.S. we have 30 million people involved in camping/RVing to entice to our parks.
Another challenge is access – in other words, how do you get there from here? You can travel through Maine, then New Brunswick and then into Nova Scotia or you can take a ferry, but one of their primary ferries from Portland, Maine, to Yarmouth, N.S., was discontinued without notice at the beginning of the year.
By the same token, they deal with competition from public parks. It’s not so much the competition as it is that the provincial, local and national parks use taxpayer money to make improvements – the same complaint that some park owners/managers have in the States. In Nova Scotia, provincial parks by law are not to add amenities that are offered by privately owned parks, so no Wi-Fi or full hookups. That’s a plus.
While in Nova Scotia, I visited with managers at their two national parks. Both are looking at ways to bring in more visitors to their respective parks and to make improvements that appeal to today’s campers. One was amazingly similar to a private park, but with really large, beautiful sites featuring 15- and 30-amp service, but no water or sewer.
There are two dump stations and, according to the park manager, they have realized that people want things to be clean. With a full time staff cleaning restrooms, they are immaculate. The park is mainly filled with locals who can stay as long as three weeks at a time. I said it reminded me of a private park because many of the sites had signs with the name of the camping family at the site – obviously for regulars.
The park’s management has plans to upgrade electric on more sites and is looking at possibly adding a Laundromat.
Wi-Fi is offered in one area of the park; they actually had a building dedicated to this with computer stations making it convenient for their visitors.
And, of course, there are Walmarts in Nova Scotia that allow overnighting, and some park owners complain about them taking away business. Sound familiar? However, there seemed to be more owners who seemed to feel that Walmart campers weren’t their customers, anyway.
It is always helpful to have a new set of eyes look at a park. When you’ve been working steadily at improving your park, there are just things that you don’t see.
Many of the park operators I met are relatively new owners – over the last three to four years – and have been improving their parks, adding upgraded electric, Wi-Fi where possible, and improving sites.
There is always maintenance to do and it didn’t help this year to have really bad weather issues for the first part of their season – lots of rain, much like areas of the U.S. This has slowed their maintenance, and with a very short prime season of really July and August prior to their harsh winters, some of the maintenance will likely stay deferred until their primary season is over.
Generally speaking, Nova Scotia is a very beautiful province that reminds me a lot of New England. Big draws are, of course, water, seafood and MUSIC. Some parks will have extemporaneous “kitchen” bands, while several park owners say their clientele follows the music festivals around the province, staying at parks along the way. They say they have actually lost seasonals because they want to move to the next music event.
Seasonals are big and could be bigger but, as in the U.S., they still find that the overnighter sites are worth more. Yet, there are some park owners contemplating turning their parks into fully seasonal facilities so they don’t have to be concerned about attracting the overnight/weekend campers.
When it comes to games, it seems that “washer toss” (I pictured a washer being tossed similar to hurling in the Scottish games) is much more popular than horseshoes. In fact, every park has washer toss tournaments for kids and adults. Many have washer toss trophies that are very coveted. I’m sure most of you know about this game, but If you haven’t seen or heard of washer toss, a quick look at www.sportcraft.com/washer-toss-Rules.html will tell you how to play the game and www.instructables.com/id/How-to-make-washer-toss-game let’s you know how to make a game.
In my next article I’ll talk about more of the issues all parks have in common and share a few ideas I picked up in my travels.
Linda Profaizer is immediate past president of ARVC. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She welcomes help along the way to give her some ideas on topics of importance to campground owners and operators as they operate their businesses.