Drought Taking Toll on Indiana Campgrounds
Indiana’s long dry spell is starting to take a bite out of outdoor businesses across the state during what is normally their peak season.
According to the Associated Press, open burning bans had been issued as of Tuesday (June 19) in more than 30 of Indiana’s 92 counties as much of the state is listed as being in at least moderate drought.
The prohibition on campfires at Chain O’ Lakes State Park in northeastern Indiana has reduced business by about one-third at the shop Alan Erwin runs there selling firewood and other supplies to campers.
“A lot of what we sell revolves around campfires,” Erwin told The News Sun of Kendallville. “We sell lots of wood over the weekends. That makes up probably 15 percent to 20 percent of our sales.”
Some of the sales drop might have come from the park’s campgrounds being only about half full, Erwin said.
“It’s just one of those things we’ve got to wade through,” Erwin said. “Being a business, you’ve just got to refocus. That’s what we’re doing.”
Local officials across the state say they’re worried about fires spreading quickly from tinder-dry grass, with many wondering whether they will be faced with calling off Fourth of July fireworks shows if significant rainfall doesn’t arrive.
“There’s been brush fires, wood fires and just plain stupidity fires, and it’s taxing our resources,” Peru Fire Chief Chris Betzner told the Kokomo Tribune. “Until we get some moisture, it’s bad out there.”
Most counties in northeastern Indiana have issued burn bans, and similar decisions are being made by more central and southern Indiana counties.
The National Weather Service has recorded only 0.05 of an inch of rain in Indianapolis for June — threatening to beat the 0.36 of an inch record dryness set in June 1988. Fort Wayne has seen 0.06 of an inch of rain this month, while Evansville has seen 0.15 of an inch as of Tuesday.
Judith Writsel, who runs the Lynnville Park Campground, said she’s prayed for rain to avoid a second year of burn bans at the town about 20 mile northeast of Evansville.
Writsel said she didn’t have any troubles last year with campers disobeying the burn ban and realizes the 75-site campground might lose some business because visitors can’t have campfires.
“I’d rather have that than an entire campground burn down,” she told the Evansville Courier & Press.
High temperatures reaching into the 90s this week also are discouraging outdoor activities.
“It’s so hot for people to even camp,” said Patsy Marshall, who along with her husband has owned and operated Yellow Banks Recreation Center in Dale, Ind., for 45 years. “If they’re going to have to sit in their campers, running the air conditioning, they might as well stay home.”