The old Centennial Park campground in Stone Mills, Ontario, is departing from its rowdy past, as overnight camping is no longer permitted at the facility.
But it’s for the best, according to Stone Mills Township chief administrative officer Darlene Plumley.
The last time the overnight campground was open for business was in 2009, but due to noise complaints and the township’s inability to maintain the site, it was shut down at the end of the summer, Kingston This Week reported.
Earlier this summer, Stone Mills Township announced that it would also be shutting down its summer day camp and Varty Lake swim programs due to declining attendance, a lack of volunteers and a lack of funding for the programs.
“Once locals realized that they could still have [the site] for day use, to go in and launch their boats and let the kids swim, they weren’t quite as upset,” says Plumley. “I think at one time they thought we were going to close it up altogether and they wouldn’t have any access but that’s not the case at all.”
In fact, the site is now free of charge, a bonus for locals.
In 2010, Stone Mills hired a custodial staff member to look after the campground, however, this year the township decided to rent out the custodial cottage instead.
“It’s hard to get people who are responsible, who have enough time on their hands and who are committed enough, at the rate that we can pay,” explains Plumley. “We need someone in there that can look after it and run it like a business moreso than just a campground. It needs to be run like a business to really be viable.”
Donna Hoeltzel is the proprietor of Varty Lake Campground, a site located directly across the Lake from Centennial Park. She echoes Plumley’s sentiments.
“It was very rowdy. We could hear them from across the lake and we actually got quite a few people from there who came over to our campground because it was just so bad over there — police were there all the time because of the fighting and rowdiness.”
She says that on more than one occasion the Varty Lake Campground was even mistaken for the Centennial Park campground in the media, a mistake that was detrimental to the reputation of her campground.
“I absolutely agree with the decision to shut down the overnight and seasonal aspect of campground,” says Hoeltzel. “It was originally intended for the people of our township but actually there was no one from our township camping in that park. People here wouldn’t go there because it was so bad.”
Plumley says it would take a lot of persuasion to get her to consider revisiting the idea of the Centennial Park campground. She says that perhaps after a few years have lapsed and the clientele of the campground has changed, it may be time for a fresh start. For now, the facility’s overnight camping is just too much for the township to handle.
Since the cancellation of the summer programs, Centennial Park has started a swimming subsidy program, which offers up to $42 per year for a child to participate in a swimming instruction program in a neighbouring municipality or a private setting.