Mass. Park Owner Gives Up After 30-Year Fight

August 2, 2013 by · Comments Off on Mass. Park Owner Gives Up After 30-Year Fight 

After battling the town of Middleboro for 30 years Barbara Holton has thrown in the towel and is ready to accept a $2.5 million offer from a developer for her 40-acre campground, WATD-TV, Marshfield, Mass., reported.

Holton has been at the center of a slew of court cases since she was denied a permit for 100 campers in 1984 for her Tispaquin Family Campground. The campground is closed this season by court order, and Holton said she’s run out of money to fight.

The $2.5 million offer is contingent on the town approving a 40-unit affordable housing project and Middleboro Town Manager Charles Cristello says that throws a curve ball into the mix. Cristello said the offer must be modified for the town to act and even so, he’s not so sure there’s money for the purchase.

According to Middleboro Assessor Barbara Erickson, Holton’s property is valued at $689,600. Erickson said Holton has been getting a 25% recreational tax break on the property, which entitles the town to the right of first refusal.

Selectman Allin Frawley wants to save the property from development because it abuts the 300-acre Weston Forest and the 3,000-acre Rocky Gutter Wildlife Management Area, but he’s not so sure residents are interested in acquiring a town beach.

Selectmen will seek public input on the matter at their Aug. 12 meeting.


Massachusetts Campground Faces Closure

April 4, 2013 by · 4 Comments 

Officials in Middleboro, Mass., were reluctantly preparing to bar the entrance to the Tispaquin Family Campground this week after a deadline passed for campground owners Barbara and Ralph Holton to comply with a court order and reduce the number of campsites on the property by nearly half, The Standard-Times, New Bedford, Mass, reported.

Last week, Judge Robert Cosgrove, associate justice of the Plymouth County Superior Court, ordered the campground closed as of April 1 unless the court received “notification by the defendants that they are in full compliance with the court’s order” to remove excess camping units and vehicles from the campground by last Friday (March 29).

The town is “directed, to the extent practical, to chain, seal or otherwise obstruct vehicular access to the campgrounds, and to post notice that the campgrounds are closed by order of the court.”

Town Manager Charles Cristello said plans were being made to place a chain across the entrance this week.

“The court has given us a directive to cut off access, so we’re doing that,” Cristello said. “This doesn’t have to happen. All she has to do is come into compliance with the court order “¦Her attorney wrote and said she’s going to do it by the 15th, but that’s not what the court said.”

Cristello said Town Counsel Daniel Murray and Building Commissioner Robert Whalen were at the campground on Tuesday to count camping units. The Holtons’ campground permit, which was issued by the Zoning Board of Appeals about 30 years ago, limits them to 57 sites plus a “safari field” for special events, as does the Superior Court ruling that resolved several court cases beginning in 2011. Mrs. Holton at one point contended a campsite could hold more than one camping unit, and she has since rented as many as 113 sites, according to the town.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Mrs. Holton vacillated between saying she will allow the campground to remain closed to vowing to continuing fighting the town in court.

“I can’t go back to 57 units,” she said at one point, asserting that in fact she would have fewer sites to rent because Murray and Whalen were counting motorhomes that belong to her, and motorhomes that are not on actual sites but in storage.

“I can’t do business like that,” she said. “For the amount of overheard and bills I have to pay here, the attorney’s fees I’m paying, it’s not worth it.”

Mrs. Holton said she is hopeful about legislation being considered in Boston that would reduce the required sewer system capacity for campgrounds to a point where she believes she might be able to show that she has adequate capacity — the main sticking point in the dispute she has had with the town.

She said she is also trying to convince state Department of Environmental Protection officials that they should “explain to the town the way things have been done with other campgrounds in the state to help them keep operating.”

Despite the fact that Judge Cosgrove’s 14-page opinion indicated his order was not subject to further appeal — Mrs. Holton has filed appeals of previous orders — Mrs. Holton said her attorney is “trying to get some relief through the courts.”

Meanwhile, the campground normally opens April 15. Mrs. Holton said she “can put it off a month,” but that she may not try to open this season and might even try to sell the property.


Campground Expansion Dispute Drags On

November 2, 2012 by · Comments Off on Campground Expansion Dispute Drags On 

Barbara Holton, proprietor of the Tispaquin Family Campground near Middleboro, Mass., reappeared before the Zoning Board of Appeals Oct. 25, following up on her request for the town to permit her 111 campsites as opposed to the 57 she is currently approved for, the Middleboro Gazette reported.

The request is the latest move in a decades-long dispute between the campground owner and the town over the number of campsites the Holton property should have. The issue has also been through the courts and before the Board of Selectmen acting as the Board of Health.

A judge has upheld the town’s position that the campground’s septic system can only handle the 57 sites for which the campground was permitted by the zoning board nearly 30 years ago.

At a previous hearing back in August, the zoning board granted Holton a two-month period to update her septic system in accordance with local and state guidelines and attain appropriate documentation from the Board of Health to confirm her compliance.

Owner’s Perspective

Holton began the continued hearing last week with a written review of the events surrounding the dispute from her perspective.

“At the last hearing on August 23rd, I was unaware that I would run into another brick wall as I believe I had proper documentation for this board to approve the allowance of the 111 campsites at Tispaquin Family Camp area,” she said. “Then I was told the rules have changed, that I needed to have everything done with letters from the building commissioner and the Board of Health that I am now in compliance and then the board would issue the permit.”

Holton, who has been operating her campground without a license from the health board for a number of years because she increased the number of sites without permission, contended that the board’s request for the confirmation letters is a “rule for one,” referencing a permit issued to the Kampgrounds of America (KOA) campground in Middleboro which also added campsites without pre-approval from the town.

“KOA uses their septic systems with a Title V approval. They had a failure – they had to replace and repair their system. Without that failure, they’d still be using the same systems they’ve had forever,” she said.

Holton maintains, as she stated in August, that her campground, being in existence for as long as it has, should be grandfathered into approval as she believes the KOA campground would have been had it not been for their failure.

At the August meeting, zoning board members said that when Holton increased the number of campsites, she became subject to current state regulations regarding septic systems.

“Remember there were people here in 1984 that wanted to throw me out of town with your help?” Holton said in reference to her neighbors. “Well, they’re not here now because I respected them and now they respect me. They know that I didn’t destroy their neighborhood. I said I was going to make a beautiful place and not bother them and that’s what I did.”

Holton expressed a lack of faith in the board that if she invests in the necessary update to her septic system that they will in fact issue the permit.

“The system will go in, but for me to spend that kind of money and with no assurance that I’m going to have a permit. I still think it’s silly. It didn’t work for the KOA that way,” she said. “They still have part of their plan that has to be completed by February 2013, so why did they get a permit from you?”

Board Response

Zoning board member Joseph Freitas Jr. responded to Holton’s address.

“If you were a new business coming into town and you brought back an ongoing concern and you wanted to do the same thing that you want to do right now from day one, you would go through the same process,” he explained. “You would petition the board for ‘X’ amount of time. The governing boards of the town (would) direct you in what it will take to get you to where you want to be. You would facilitate those requests. They would then sign off on them and then you would satisfy the requests of all the boards.”

Freitas went on to tell Holton that once all requests were satisfied, that hypothetically “there would be no reason not to grant the permit.”

“There were some conversations at the last meeting in regards to ongoing litigations that we didn’t want to engage in or talk about it, and I still don’t want to talk about it,” Freitas said in reference to the fact that a Superior Court judge has ordered a receiver to take over the campground and reduce the number of sites to 57. “But I would like to request to the chairman of this board that we actually get a letter from our legal counsel that we could, in effect, approve a permit for a number of sites greater than what is being in receivership now.”

“I agree,” said Zoning Board Chairman Bruce Atwood. “At least we’ll know how many (campsites) we can approve.”

Holton also expressed her beliefs that Health Officer Jeanne Spalding has thwarted the permitting process for the Tispaquin Family Campground on more than one occasion.

“One of my Title V’s has been changed from a pass to a fail. Right now (Spaulding) is saying she did not do it. She said the people that did the Title V, they changed it, but when I talked to the DEP he said that she is the only one who has the authority to change it,” Holton said.

“She’s also made several calls to my engineer to discourage him in (his) letter that I submitted with my application. She called him and told him that the email was false and that he needed to retract it,” she claimed.

“That same engineer  wrote the letter to say that the KOA was being compliant and you accepted that because he’s an engineer and you believed him but now Jeanne doesn’t want you to believe what he wrote about me.”


Similar to the outcome of her August hearing, Holton was given a two-month continuance and is to return to the zoning board on Jan. 24, 2013, with a letter from the board of health confirming that a new septic system has been installed on the property in accordance with local and state guidelines.



Campground Owner, Town Still in a Stalemate

July 19, 2012 by · Comments Off on Campground Owner, Town Still in a Stalemate 

Tispaquin Family Campground owner Barbara Holton has filed a request with the Zoning Board of Appeals in Middleboro, Mass., for a special permit that would more than double the number of sites at the campground.

Holton, who is facing legal action for failing to reduce the number of sites as required by a court order, said she filed with the zoning board after the KOA Kampground, also in Middleboro, successfully petitioned for an increase in sites last month, the Middleboro Gazette reported.

“The KOA got a permit, no problem,” Holton said. “If it’s that easy, why haven’t I been steered in that direction?”

Holton said she believes a hearing will be held next month on her request to increase the number of campsites from 57, the number in the special permit the zoning board approved nearly 30 years ago, to 110. The latter represents the number of sites she has been renting for the last 10 years without a license from the town.

Meanwhile, a Superior Court judge has denied Holton’s appeal of an order issued in June that required her to cut the number of sites by 10 a week until she reaches the 57 sites for which she is permitted. The decision came after the town requested an injunction based on the fact that Holton and her husband, Ralph, were in violation of their zoning permit.

The selectmen, acting as the Board of Health, have refused to issue an annual camping license for the campground for the past 10 years based on the zoning violation and the fact that the campground’s sewage system is not adequate to serve more than the permitted number of units. The Holtons’ own engineer acknowledged earlier this year that the septic system is adequate to serve 49 units.

Town Manager Charles Cristello said an attorney representing Holton appeared in court last week, after the town reported Holton’s failure to comply with the order issued in June. The attorney said Holton could not comply because all her records were destroyed in a fire that destroyed two campers and a vehicle at the campground in March.

Cristello said the judge observed that another of Holton’s attorneys is one of the campers at Tispaquin.

“He made it clear he wasn’t interested or of a mind to issue a stay,” the town manager said. He said the judge indicated he would be issuing a decision finding the Holtons in contempt of the June order, but nothing had been issued from the court at press time.

Cristello was unimpressed with Holton’s decision to ask the zoning board to increase the number of units permitted at the campground. He said the KOA, which Holton noted has had septic system issues, has been working with the town to correct the problems, while the Holtons have not taken any steps to upgrade their system.

“She goes around and around on this, and it’s apples and oranges,” Cristello said of Holton’s assertions that she should be treated as the KOA is treated. “The KOA is under (state Department of Environmental Protection) jurisdiction. They had a system that worked and then failed. Hers has never been in compliance.”

Holton said she included in her zoning board filing a plan for a septic system upgrade that she would be willing to make if she is permitted for more units.

“My system has never failed,” she said, noting that while her engineer agreed her system is not adequate for the number of units she has, “if you read to the bottom of the letter he says that’s by today’s standards.” She said her system is “grandfathered” because it was installed before current septic system regulations went into effect.

Tispaquin Campground Owner to Appeal Court Order

June 14, 2012 by · Comments Off on Tispaquin Campground Owner to Appeal Court Order 

The latest court ruling in a decades-long dispute may result in nothing much new — unless you count the fines that could be imposed on Ralph and Barbara Holton, owners of the Tispaquin Family Campground near Middleboro, Mass.

The Holtons have been in a legal battle with the town for most of the 29 years they have owned the campground. They contend they should be able to have double the number of campsites allowed by the Zoning Board of Appeals when they applied for a special permit after they bought the property, The Standard-Times, New Bedford, reported.

The town has taken a number of steps to stop the Holtons from hosting more than 100 camping units, including legal action relating to health code violations and denying a license to operate.

Recently, the town took a different tack and the building commissioner filed suit in Plymouth Superior Court alleging the Holtons’ operation violates zoning bylaws because the number of units exceed the 57 sites specified in the zoning board permit.

Last week, Superior Court Judge Robert Cosgrove ordered the Holtons to reduce the number of vehicles or campsites at the campground by 10, and to continue reducing the number until the total is 57. The deadline for the first 10 units to be removed is tomorrow.

Mrs. Holton said she has retained a lawyer specializing in appeals, and that she plans to appeal the ruling. She said she hopes to get a stay from Judge Cosgrove before the deadline.

Town Manager Charles Cristello, who attended the hearing on June 1 where the town presented its complaint, said he expected that when an inspection takes place tomorrow, nothing will have changed.

“I went on the site visit when we counted the units,” the town manager said. “(Mrs. Holton) said, ‘These are all my friends, I can’t decide, so I will have to close the park.'”

The town manager’s expectations were also colored by the fact that the campground has been operating without a license from the Board of Health for the past nine years. The town’s efforts to get the campground in compliance with health regulations, specifically those dealing with the facility’s septic system, have been unsuccessful.

Cristello said the results of the latest legal action may be different at some point because this time there are serious financial consequences.

“The judge said, ‘The court’s order will be complied with or I will impose substantial fines,'” the town manager said.

Cristello said the town took the zoning route to resolving issues with the campground because of the Holtons’ inaction with regard to the health violations. He said something had to be done to end the stalemate.

“Why would anybody want to comply with the town’s rules if the town’s not going to enforce them?” he said.

In April, Chairman of Selectmen Al Rullo told Ms. Holton, who makes an annual appearance before the board, that her application for a license for 113 sites could not be approved because a superior court judge ruled the campground’s septic system is inadequate by current standards to serve that number of campers. It was noted during the hearing that the Holtons’ own engineer testified that the septic system was adequate to serve a maximum of 49 sites.

Mrs. Holton said she had an engineer design a new system, but she said she would not submit plans to the state Department of Environmental Protection and proceed further with the new system unless the selectmen, who act as the Board of Health, gave her a license and allowed her to maintain 113 units — about the number currently occupied at one time or another — pending approval and construction of the new septic system. The selectmen refused.

This week, Mrs. Holton said she has filed an “equal protection” suit against the town in Brockton Court because she believes she is being held to standards that are not required of other campgrounds. She said she may also file with the zoning board for an amendment to her special permit allowing additional campsites. But she acknowledged the clock is ticking and she may be facing stiff fines.

“I’m hoping I can get a stay,” she said.


Bay State Campground Saga Continues Unchanged

April 27, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

When people get their dander up sufficiently to march on Town Hall, they’re usually pretty clear about who they should be angry at. But in the case of the campers who packed the selectmen’s room Monday night (April 23) in Middleboro, Mass., in support of the Tispaquin Family Campground owners, their frustration was misguided.

In fact, it was the selectmen who were justifiably exasperated, the Middleboro Gazette reported.

The saga of Barbara and Ralph Holton and their campground on Tispaquin Pond has taken plenty of twists and turns over the past 28 years, and much of that time Barbara Holton was a more or less sympathetic character – still is, to some extent. She and her husband offer a pleasant setting for people who enjoy having a place to get away from it all on weekends, a place most of them have called their seasonal home for years.

Every year for the past nine years, Ms. Holton has come before the selectmen – acting as the board of health – to apply for a campground license. Every year the selectmen have denied it. They have to – and Ms. Holton’s own engineer made that clear last year when he told the board the campground’s septic system is adequate for 49 camping units by current state standards. The problem is, there are well over 100 units on the site.

The numbers have been the subject of lawsuits back and forth between Ms. Holton and the town for years, involving the zoning board of appeals as well as the selectmen since the ZBA 28 years ago granted a permit for 56 units plus a “safari field” – an area that could be used occasionally for weekend gatherings and the like.

After last year’s hearing, Ms. Holton acknowledged her septic problem by having her engineer draw up plans for a solution. Rather than submit the plans to the state Department of Environmental Protection, the agency that would have to approve them, she says she gave them to her lawyer. Her plan as she expressed it to the selectmen Monday night was to offer to submit the plans and implement them if the selectmen would give her a license for 113 sites.

The selectmen can’t do that because by her own admission Ms. Holton has a septic system that’s not adequate for that many campers. If she was granted a license and something happened to pollute the pond or worse, create a public health risk, those affected wouldn’t go after Ms. Holton. They’d sue the town.

Years ago, Ms. Holton was advised to go back to the zoning board and resolve her issues. She would have had support from many people in town. Last year, she was told the selectmen wanted to license her campground and she was urged to take the steps necessary to address the septic system issues. Monday night, the selectmen made it clear that they want to permit her business – they voted to issue her a license, for the first time in nine years, for the 56 sites and safari field that were granted to her by the zoning board.

It’s unlikely the license will remain in force long, since Ms. Holton has told the board in the past that she would not reduce the number of units at her campground if she were permitted for fewer than 113. It’s also unlikely, as campers feared Monday night, that some of them will be forced to leave. They’ve been there illegally for years now.

Seems like the best thing the campers could do for themselves and Ms. Holton would be to redirect their energy and encourage her to submit her septic plans to DEP and move forward toward a solution to that problem. She would also have to work with the town on the existing septic service.

Right now, at least, Barbara Holton has a board of health that would like nothing better than to make everyone at the Tispaquin Family Campground a happy camper.

Body Denies Septic Permit to Campground Owner

May 9, 2011 by · Comments Off on Body Denies Septic Permit to Campground Owner 

In the midst of a long-standing dispute with the town over septic system violations, selectmen voted unanimously last week to deny a permit application to operate to the Tispaquin Family Campground, 68 Purchase St., in Middleboro, Mass.

Selectmen, who act as the Board of Health, followed the recommendation of Health Officer Jeanne Spalding, who said the units should be limited to 57 based on the capacity of the septic system and not the 113 units the campground is seeking, The Enterprise, Brockton, reported.

Barbara A. Holton, who owns the campground along with her husband, Ralph, has had a 28-year dispute with the town, first over zoning violations regarding the number of campgrounds, and since 2002, a dispute over the septic system not meeting the camp’s capacity.

Holton who made an impassioned plea to selectmen to grant the permit for 113 units said “this is a personal vendetta,” against the campground, noting that she has not had septic problems.

“This has gone on long enough,” Holton told selectmen saying that she could no longer afford the attorney’s fees to fight the town.

Holton said she has lost customers due to the publicity that she is operating without a license.

“I have my regular customers, thank God for them,” said Holton. Last year Holton presented selectmen with a petition signed by 300 residents in support of the campground.

Engineer George Collins, recently hired by the Holtons, asked selectmen if they would approve the permit for 113 sites based on the condition that they would develop a plan to improve the septic system and complete the upgrade by next year. In the interim the town could conduct monthly inspections,

If the sites are reduced from 113 to 57, then the Holtons would not have the money to do the upgrades, said Collins.

Selectmen Chairman Alfred P. Rullo Jr. told Collins that the Holtons are asking selectmen to violate the health department’s recommendations. He noted the courts also ruled last April in the town’s favor that the septic system was inadequate to meet the higher capacity required of the 113 sites.

Rullo also argued that since the campground “has operated several years without a permit,” he was concerned that the upgrades would not be done and “nothing would happen again.”

“We are not here to put the Holtons out of business,” said Rullo.

Read more:

Massachusetts Campgrounds: Too Many Hurdles

June 1, 2010 by · Comments Off on Massachusetts Campgrounds: Too Many Hurdles 

Barbara and Ralph Holton announced this winter that they would close their Middleborough, Mass., campground by year’s end.

Owners of the Tispaquin Family Campground since 1984, they have been in a protracted legal battle with local officials over septic and health regulations — the Holtons seeking to expand their operation, the town and state telling them instead to reduce the number of their campsites, according to the Boston Globe.

In May, the Holtons declared their intention to remain open and apply for a new operating permit. With the summer camping season approaching and statewide bookings running 16% ahead of last year, according to the Massachusetts Association of Campgrounds Owners (MACO), loyal customers attended a recent town hearing in support of the Holtons. A grateful Barbara Holton nevertheless admits that managing a campground often seems more trouble than it’s worth.

“For 20 of the 26 years we’ve been in business, I keep asking myself: Can I do this another year?’’ she says. “It’s taken a toll.’’

The Holtons are not alone in questioning whether operating a family-oriented campground — a relic of simpler times and tastes, perhaps, yet one that still brings warm memories to generations of happy campers, like the Esdale family of Walpole — is worth the aggravation. Campground owners do not survive on hot dogs and ’smores alone, after all. The woodsy escape they offer families may be priceless, yet the cost of doing business is anything but.

“For us, it’s where our kids really grew up, an enclave where everyone knew and cared for each other,’’ says Stephen Esdale, a nursing-home consultant whose family has been camping at Pinewood Lodge in Plymouth for 40 years. Though his three children are now in their 20s and older, they still make use of his two seasonal campsites there, the campground experience remaining for them, Esdale says, “like the old neighborhood used to be, very safe and very family-oriented, a lifestyle that’s really based on the land and park.’’

Yet over the past five years, according to MACO, facilities like Pinewood and Tispaquin have been disappearing at the rate of more than one per year. Many struggle with state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulations limiting their septic-system capacity, effectively quashing expansion plans, according to association board member Marcia Galvin. Like small businesses everywhere, they face a host of other challenges, too, from land use and tax bills to competition from more upscale vacation options.

“A lot of these campgrounds started as family farms,’’ Galvin says. By converting farmland to camping facilities, family members were able to hold onto the land for another generation or two without selling off their valuable real estate.

Now, she says, “it’s hard to make a living with restrictions that make growth almost impossible.’’ Of particular concern are DEP regulations that calculate water usage at 90 gallons per campsite per day, a figure the campground association’s 73 owner-members contend is unrealistically high. They’ve hired Merrill Associates, a Hanover engineering company, to conduct its own study of campground water usage, hoping to submit its findings to the DEP by summer’s end.

A bill requiring the DEP to review its regulations, with input from campground owners and state Department of Recreation and Conservation officials, is before the House Ways and Means Committee. Supporters point to the economic benefit camping brings to the state: More than 450,000 people use the state’s campgrounds every year, representing 3% to 4% of Massachusetts’ $16 billion tourism industry. Owners seek relief from the so-called “10,000 lot rule,’’ which limits campground water discharge to 10,000 gallons per lot per day, regardless of lot size. According to Pinewood Lodge owner Jim Saunders and others, the rule ignores such factors as the lower discharge rates from recreational vehicles equipped with holding tanks.

Rep. James Murphy of Weymouth, one of the bill’s cosponsors, says campground owners have been put in a bind, unable to use more of their open land yet reluctant to sell underused acreage to make ends meet. “Family camping is a vital part of our economy, an industry we should promote, preserve, and protect,’’ says Murphy, who hopes to see the bill reach the House floor this summer.

Whatever the bill’s fate, campground ownership has been steadily losing much of its old appeal, if not its profitability. A few campgrounds have been sold to national chains, others to developers with noncamping uses in mind. Crystal Springs Campground in Bolton closed last year. In 2006, after six decades, Wyman’s Beach Family Campground in Westford folded its tents, its lakeside setting now home to Summer Village at the Pond, a community of seasonal cottages priced at $174,000 and up. Village amenities include a general store, fitness center and tennis courts.

Brock Tucci, who owns the East Wareham campground Jellystone Park, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection recently, a legal remedy he soon expects to be seeking for his business. Tucci’s 50-year old, 600-acre campground (240 acres with 475 permitted campsites, the remainder open land) belongs to a franchised chain themed to the “Yogi Bear’’ cartoon show. About 2,000 campers enjoy it on a typical summer weekend, says Tucci, who spent $5 million improving the facility after his father, the previous owner, died in 2001.

He’s in a quandary over what to do next, though. Selling to a developer would be a last resort, Tucci says, but he’s already cut his 55-person workforce in half this year. Developing a second, more adult-friendly campground would boost his bottom line, he adds, but he doubts complaining neighbors and an unsympathetic town zoning board will allow it.

In Gloucester, Cape Ann Camp Site owner Bob Matz says that if he had to depend on camping for his livelihood, he too might pack up. A retired chemist and businessman, Matz runs a seasonal, 90-acre campground that’s been in his family for over 60 years. The business itself is marginally profitable, says Matz, citing “the pressure of getting a year-round bill for a short season.’’ The campground is open from mid-May to mid-October. “If you look at a business where you spend $1 million for the land and charge $30 to $40 a night to use it, it doesn’t work.’’

One frustrated campground owner who has tested the DEP’s 90-gallon metric is James Palmatier, owner of Prospect Lake campground in North Egremont. Two years ago he metered his 129-site campground’s water usage, calculated at between 500,000 and 650,000 gallons for the season — significantly less than the 2.5 million gallons projected by state officials.

“I’d say 50% of the campgrounds in this state are in jeopardy,’’ Palmatier says.

If not an endangered species, “they’re definitely more of a challenge to run these days,’’ says Paula Carroll, executive director of the campground association. Three-quarters of her membership are family-owned operations, she noted, and “some might not have the next generation willing to step up and take over. Most want their [properties] to stay a campground, but that’s not always possible.’’

Four years ago, Carroll and her family sold their Dennis Port campground, Campers Haven, to Carefree Corp., a Florida company that owns a chain of campgrounds and recreational-vehicle parks throughout the United States. Carroll’s family had owned the camp for 18 years and negotiated an agreement that the campground would stay just that. Still, there are no legal guarantees attached, Carroll concedes.

For lifelong campers like Brockton residents Dottie and Walter Egan, it’s the emotional attachments that matter most. The Egans have been parking their trailer at Tispaquin Family Campground for 21 summers. Both rave about the facility’s neatness, neighborliness, and affordability. Their accumulated memories of summer days camping by the water’s edge aren’t easily transferable. “I doubt we’d look for another site if this one closes,’’ says Walter Egan. “If the town loses Tispaquin, they’d lose me, too.’’

City, Campground Owners in Stalemate

May 18, 2010 by · Comments Off on City, Campground Owners in Stalemate 

Selectmen have denied a campground license to Tispaquin Family Campground near Middleboro, Mass., saying its septic system would not support the proposed number of sites, according to The Enterprise, Brockton, Mass.

The vote Monday came as no surprise to campground owners Barbara A. and Ralph Holton, who have been battling with the town for years over the number of campsites.

On April 7, the Plymouth Superior Court sided with the town and ruled that the septic system was not large enough to handle the 113 sites the Holtons were seeking. The town told the Holtons it would approve a campground with 57 sites.

Selectmen last week continued the hearing after Barbara Holton argued, as she has in the past, that the town is targeting her and that the KOA off Route 44 has also been in violation. Selectmen asked Health Officer Jeanne Spalding to investigate the KOA.

Spalding reported Monday that the KOA was in compliance.

“We have been fighting the same issue for several years now and the court has ruled. It’s a simple decision for me. You are not in compliance,” said Selectman Alfred P. Rullo Jr.

Asked by selectman Chairman Marsha L. Brunelle if she would be willing to reduce her units to 57 or expand her septic system, Holton replied ‘no.’

“I am not going to amend it, I want 113,” said Holton.

Septic Issue Dooms Massachusetts Campground

February 11, 2010 by · Comments Off on Septic Issue Dooms Massachusetts Campground 

After eight years of battling with the town for her right to run a campsite, the owner of Tispaquin Family Campground in Middleboro, Mass., bitterly told selectmen this week she would close her business by the end of the year, according to The Enterprise, Brockton, Mass.

Barbara Holton, owner of the Tispaquin Family Campground, along with her husband, Ralph, told selectmen of her decision following a lengthy public hearing on board of health violations.

Holton said she plans to keep the camp open one more season to give her customers until Dec. 31 to remove their articles.

“I have been beaten by this town for 26 years,” said Holton who purchased the property and 32-acre site in 1984. “I appreciate everything the board is trying to do to shut the campground down, but they need not continue because I have decided that after this season I am going to be closing the campground.”

At Monday’s meeting, selectmen quietly listened to her comments. Selectmen Chairman Patrick Rogers said the Superior Judicial Court required the hearing to address questions regarding the suit filed by the town and Holton.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Rogers told Holton, as Holton walked away. “Certainly I know the campground has been appreciated by a lot of people who camp there.”

Holton did not say what her plans were with the property that is valued at $988,700 by the assessors. The two houses on the property are assessed at $410,800 and the 30 acres of recreational land is valued at $577,900, said Assessor Barbara Erickson.

The land abuts Tispaquin Pond and would be valued significantly higher if sold as house lots, said Erickson.

“It’s a beautiful piece of property. It’s not a piece of property I would like to see made into house lots,” said Erickson.

The campground has continued to operate, though the town has denied a license since 2002, sighting the inadequacy of the campground’s septic system to meet the needs of the units.

Board of Health Officer Jeanne Spalding said the campsite has had up to 150 units though it is authorized to have 57 units.

“If you increase your operation, you need to upgrade your system,” Spalding told selectmen.

Holton claims that her septic system meets the needs of her campground and has passed Title 5 inspections. “My systems are totally good,” said Holton.

During the public hearing, selectmen, who serve as the town’s board of health, reviewed six questions issued by the court and after hearing arguments from Spalding and Holton, they voted in favor of the town on each issue.

The questions dealt with topics such as:

  • The Title 5 inspection and its relevance to the case.
  • The design flow capacity and its significance, the board of health’s decision to issue a license for 57 campsites when the design flow capacity was sufficient for 49 units.
  • The relationship between the alleged zoning violations and the board of health’s decision to deny the campground a license to operate.