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KOA: ‘July 4 Weekend’ Camping Surged 16.3%

July 9, 2013 by · Comments Off on KOA: ‘July 4 Weekend’ Camping Surged 16.3% 

Summer camping numbers at Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) locations continued to grow, bolstered by a more than 16% growth in camping over the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

KOA reported Monday that short-term camper nights for the Fourth of July holiday increased 16.3% over the same period in 2012. Year-to-date, Kampgrounds of America’s 485 locations in North America are reporting a 2.5% growth in camper nights, compared to the same period last year, according to a news release.

“Camping numbers have been very strong all year,” said KOA President Pat Hittmeier. “Despite some weather challenges in certain areas, we are looking at significant growth in 2013.”

Advanced reservations for Labor Day Weekend are running nearly 12% over the same period last year, and overall camper nights for the remainder of the summer peak season (now through Sept. 8) are running about 4.6% over the same period in 2012.

 

July 4 Holiday Roundup at U.S. Campgrounds

July 8, 2013 by · Comments Off on July 4 Holiday Roundup at U.S. Campgrounds 

Campers spent the Fourth at campgrounds. Vintage patriotic clip art courtesy of Karen Watson

Editor’s Note: Following are highlights from the nation’s media about the just concluded July Fourth holiday weekend at campgrounds.

NEW YORK

From Plattsburgh to Port Kent, locals and tourists were out enjoying the sunshine at campgrounds across the country on Saturday (July 6).
The operations manager at Bolton Acres in Keeseville says even though his camp made it through the recent rain storms relatively unscathed, business is slow, especially for a holiday weekend, WPTZ-TV, Burlington, Vt., reported.

“Business has been slow and people don’t want to spend the weekend in their camper when it’s raining all the time. It’s not enjoyable for them. We haven’t been flooded. I’ve had water coming up the top of the hill and it’s washed out the road a bit but overall it hasn’t been that bad for us,” said Alan Kirby.

Campers like Scott Meehan and his family travel from Montreal each weekend. He’s concerned about the heavy rain’s effect on the lake, but it hasn’t stopped them from camping.

“The rain has not helped obviously because it’s keeping us off the lake. Uncertainty with the weather keeps us here a little bit more often and with the water being so high, there is a lot of debris in the water so it’s actually a little bit dangerous to be out on the lake. There’s a lot of logs and potential damage out there,” said Meehan.

Most campers say even severe rain doesn’t deter their vacation plans and there are plenty of rainy-weather activities.

“We do other activities, we go hiking, we are boaters, the lake is our main attraction so obviously if we can we are going to maximize our time on the lake, but if not we can golf and we have other activities like shopping,” said Meehan.

Kirby says campers generally know how to deal with flooding and washed-out roads, and they have a plan in place if it happens on their site.

WISCONSIN

The Fourth of July weekend brought thousands to Central and Northern Wisconsin. Many of whom come for just one thing: to spend some time with mother nature. There’s no better way to do that than by camping, WSAW-TV, Wausau, reported.

Owner of Lake DuBay Shores Campground, Dennis Stanek, says more than 200 campers will pack the campgrounds this Fourth of July weekend. Although campers rolled in a little later than usual thanks to the long winter, now they’re coming in droves.

“People are camping a little differently this year I think in reference to some people are staying longer. Maybe they’re trying to make up for the spring. We hope so,” Stanek tells NewsChannel 7.

Stanek thinks gas prices may also be a contributing factor in campers decision to stay longer. But the good news is that the cost to fill up doesn’t seem to be keeping people at home.

“Obviously the gas prices have changed the way people have done things, but in a year or two people adapt to what the situation is and it’s been a little slow for a couple of years, but now it’s coming back,” Stanek explains.

Harley Meyer and his family have been camping on Lake DuBay for the last five years. Meyer says he wouldn’t miss the Fourth of July Celebration on Lake DuBay for pretty much anything.

“Going out on the pontoon watching the fireworks right from the water [is my favorite part],” Meyer says adding “We all take our pontoons out. We tie them all together. They shoot off the fireworks from an island and it’s just unbelievable to see the fireworks coming down on the water.”

Lake DuBay Shores Campground isn’t done celebrating Independence Day just yet. Friday they plan to have a pontoon boat parade and maybe some more fireworks.

NORTH DAKOTA

The spring rain put a damper on state parks, including Fort Lincoln near Mandan. But the park has bounced back this 4th of July weekend with hundreds of visitors and activities, KMOT-TV, Minot, reported.

People are out enjoying the sun, the outdoors and the Missouri River.

“We are just fishing, enjoying the wilderness. Last night was crazy watching all the fireworks and everything go off. I think everybody out here is just enjoying it, loving it,” said camper Matthew Hadley.

Matthew Hadley decided to spend his weekend camping at Fort Lincoln State Park like several other visitors.

“Any busy weekend we could have close to 400 people just in the campground. We are sometimes bigger than some small towns in North Dakota,” said park manager Dan Schelske.

Fourth of July weekend is notorious for bringing in visitors to Ft. Lincoln. Almost all 96 campsites were full. The park sits along the Missouri River and there are also hiking trails and interpretive tours available.

Despite reaching capacity, the park manager says there are constantly people coming in and out, so if you are interested in camping at Fort Lincoln, or one of the other state parks, just stop in and check it out.

TENNESSEE

Campgrounds in the Great Smoky Mountains stayed busy during this long holiday weekend. But this summer, visitors have limited options, WBIR-TV, Knoxville, reported.

Federal budget cuts, known as sequestration, went into effect in March. As a result, the National Park Service took a 5% (or, $134 million) reduction for the rest of the 2013 fiscal year.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) closed the following campgrounds: Abrams Creek, Look Rock and Baslam Mountain. GSMNP also closed two picnic areas and is managing with a smaller summer staff.

“We tried to choose areas that would be the least impact to our visitors. But we still know that while these are are least visited areas, they’re still somebody’s favorite spot,” said Dana Soehn, a GSMNP spokesperson.

At Look Rock, both the campground and picnic area are still closed.

But despite limited campsites during one of its busiest weeks of the year, they have been able to accommodate. The rain caused some visitors to leave early, leaving space at places like Elkmont.

Elisa Calleiro and her family are spending the weekend at Elkmont.

“It would be nice to know that it’s not off limits forever because I have tons of places I’d like to hike to and I’d like to know I can stay there at some point,” Calleiro said.

Soehn said GSMNP is unsure when the three campgrounds will reopen; however, park rangers are still monitoring the areas and helping visitors who stop by for the day.

IOWA

Many Muscatine-area riverfront campgrounds are normally filled with campers and tents this time of year, as outdoor enthusiasts enjoy the July 4th holiday weekend.

But this year’s rising water levels have created a much different scene this summer, forcing the local U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to close Shady Creek campground, near Fairport on June 29, and to partially close Clark’s Landing in Montpelier. Both campgrounds are located just of of Iowa Highway 22, the Muscatine Journal reported.

Kevin Zidarich, a park ranger with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Muscatine, said that the corps also oversees Kilpeck Landing near Fruitland, Ferry Landing northeast of Oakville and the Illinois campgrounds of Andalusia Slough and Blanchard Island, all of which are closed due to flooding.

“We’ve gone up and down with floods and we still haven’t been able to reopen,” said Zidarich.

According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the recent bout of high water is the result of flash flooding that passed through northeast Iowa last week.

Zidarich said 16 feet is considered the minor flood stage. Recent water levels recorded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are 18.16 feet at Illinois City and 19.7 feet on Muscatine’s Mississippi Riverfront.

“We’ve crested and it’s been dropping,” said Zidarich.

On July 2, the corps recorded a depth of 20.05 feet on the Muscatine waterfront and 18.47 feet in Illinois.

“It shows projections of going down,” said Zidarich. “As soon as levels are down and it’s safe to reopen, we will, but I can’t really put a timetable on that.”

Rising waters also have a negative impact on water sports such as boating and water skiing.

According to the DNR, recent heavy rains washed debris into the river which, combined with poor water clarity and a strong current, create a hazardous situation.

State Conservation Officer Ed Kocal of the DNR said his office is advising against boating on the Mississippi River from Clinton down to the Missouri border until the water level drops several more feet.

The Mississippi River level at Rock Island is 2.4 feet above flood stage, and that high water is moving fast, said Kocal.

The Cedar and Iowa rivers in southeast Iowa are also above flood stage and caution is urged on those rivers as well.

Zidarich advises area residents not to boat or water ski until conditions improve.

“There are a lot of debris floating in the river,” said Zidarich. “You don’t know what may be floating in the water or below the surface. It’s really not recommended to be boating or water skiing now.”

 

July 4th RVers Pack Ga.’s Blythe Island Park

July 3, 2013 by · Comments Off on July 4th RVers Pack Ga.’s Blythe Island Park 

Blythe Island Regional Park’s campground (marked by red star) is located in the Brunswick, Ga., metro area.

As they sit outside their recreational vehicle, Curtis and Lee Cowart are enjoying the quiet of Blythe Island Regional Park, located across the river from Brunswick, Ga.

The only sound to be heard around them is their conversation with friends James and Pat Carter, who are also camping enthusiasts who came to visit them at the park, the Brunswick News reported.

The Cowarts, who live in Waycross, wanted to experience the park after other friends told them about it.

After months of trying, they were able to get a reservation in early June for the week of the Fourth of July holiday, which is a rarity.

“Usually on the Fourth, with campgrounds, if you don’t reserve way ahead of time, you don’t get in,” said Pat Carter of Racepond, near Folkston. “Camping is a real popular recreation now.”

Stanley Santee, Blythe Island Regional Park manager, says all 97 RV parking sites are taken, but overflow campers are sometimes allowed if they pay the $10 park fee.

“We get people who have been driving for a long time and just want to sleep,” said Santee. “They don’t hook their RV up and use electricity.”

An influx of RVs doesn’t necessarily create overcrowding, but it does create an overflow, Santee said.

The Cowarts haven’t seen an overflow, because the park gives them ample space and a great deal of privacy, Lee Cowart said.

The Cowarts and Carters, both married couples of 50 years, have been to a variety of campgrounds, including Twin Oaks Parks at Hoboken, Ga., and Fort Clinch State Park at Fernandina Beach, Fla.

“You usually have to make a reservation up to a year for some places,” Pat Carter said. “It just all depends on the park.”

Ronnie Douglas, campground manager for Jekyll Island Campgrounds, says that some people make reservations for one of 207 RV parking spaces there a year in advance.

However, the majority of campers there now made reservations about six months ago.

“This is not a first-come, first-serve type of camp site,” Douglas said. “You have to make a reservation.”

Making a reservation won’t be a problem for the Cowarts. When the couple check out of Blythe Island Regional Park Friday afternoon, they’re going to reserve a spot for next year.

“We’ll probably come here quite a bit,” Lee Cowart said.

 

Vermont State Parks Expect Packed July 4th!

July 1, 2013 by · Comments Off on Vermont State Parks Expect Packed July 4th! 

The Adirondack Mountains and Lake Champlain seen from the Mount Philo overlook in Philo State Park, the oldest state park in Vermont.

The director of the Vermont State Parks said he expects all 2,100 campsites at the state’s 38 campgrounds will be full for the July Fourth holiday weekend, The Associated Press reported.

The Independence Day week tends to be the busiest of the summer season, and this year will be no exception despite the increased precipitation this spring and early summer, Craig Whipple said.

“We expect to be full to capacity,” Whipple said Friday (June 28).

While the number of visitors to the state’s day-use parks usually depends on the weather, many of those intending to camp out make their reservations up to 11 months in advance.

Last year, the Vermont State Park system had 920,000 visitors, a 20-year high.

The state has been working hard to encourage camping and people have been responding, Whipple said.

“A lot of people are appreciating a resurgence of getting outdoors and all the values associated with outdoor recreation,” Whipple said. “A lot of parents are anxious to get their kids outdoors and away from electronic attractions.”

Whipple estimated the 920,000 visitors to the state’s 52 campgrounds and day-use parks last year contributed $75 million to Vermont’s economy.

About 80% of the day-use visitors come from Vermont, but about 55%t of campers come from out of state.

So far, day use at state parks is about 25% lower than for the same period in 2012, but officials think that is directly attributable to the rainy weather through much of May and June.

“As soon as the weather pattern changes, the numbers will just skyrocket,” Whipple said. “The first time you see the sun, people want to head out.”

Vermont has one of the most robust state parks systems in the country, Whipple said.

The state’s first state park, Mount Philo in Charlotte, opened in 1924, but much of Vermont’s state park system was created during the 1930s at the direction of longtime state forester Perry Merrill, who also oversaw a second growth spurt in the 1960s.

“We’ve done some expansion since then, but nothing compared to those periods,” Whipple said.

 

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