Last year was “amazing” for King Phillip’s Campground in Lake George, N.Y., but this year has been even better, Debbie Spaulding, campground owner, told the Glens Falls Post Star.
In fact, as of today (Aug. 10), all of the campground’s 200-plus RV hook-ups had been booked solid for five days straight. Spaulding said the lagging economy, warm, clear weather and improvements have brought more people than ever before.
“We’re finding we just don’t have enough space,” she said.
Public parks and private campgrounds say attendance has climbed this summer, thanks to good weather and the continued popularity of low-cost family activities and staycations.
According to the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, day use is up 5% at its 178 parks and 35 historic sites between April 1 and July 31.
An additional 6,000 people visited Moreau Lake State Park during those four months, an increase of 4% over last year, according to the parks office.
At Saratoga Spa State Park, the increase is larger. Attendance jumped 45%, with an extra 300,000 visitors since the spring.
Eileen Larrabee, a spokeswoman for the state parks office, said the economy, which contributed to a strong 2009 for parks, continues to drive visitor numbers this summer. She attributed the increased day usage mostly to weather, though. Warm temperatures and clear skies arrived early in the region and have stuck around, unlike the cool, wet summer experienced last year.
In addition, the threat of park closures and cutbacks across the state in the spring might have prompted more visits, she said.
“Parks have been on people’s minds after the spring that we went through,” Larrabee said.
At Moreau Lake State Park, Manager Peter Iskenderian said the lagging economy continues to bring locals to the lake for recreation.
“It’s a cheap way to get away for just a day,” he said.
Swimming is the most popular day activity, followed by nature center programs such as the butterfly release.
“We’ll get 100 people to watch that,” Iskenderian said.
In Lake Gorge, Million Dollar Beach usage has spiked 46% so far this season over last year. About 38,800 people visited the beach through Aug. 4, while 26,500 visited during the same period last year.
Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman David Winchell also cited good weather as the main cause.
“When there is a lot of cool, rainy days, attendance is low. When there is a lot of clear and hot days, like we have had this summer, then attendance is high,” he said.
As for whether the sewage spill that closed some beaches last summer skewed the numbers, he said the impact at Million Dollar Beach was small.
While day use is up for many parks, public campgrounds have not seen the same increases.
The DEC’s Battleground and Lake George Islands campgrounds have seen a 10% and 5% decline in usage, respectively, so far this summer. Use of Hearthstone Campground along Route 9N was up a modest 3.3%.
Camping at state parks, such as Moreau Lake, has flattened out after a boost in 2009, officials said.
Many private campgrounds with amenities, however, say they can hardly keep up with demand.
John Rayno, general manager for Lake George Escape Camping Resort, said the company’s two Lake George properties are on track to break records. Reservations are up 5% over 2009, which was also a banner year.
Rayno believes a variety of activities offered to campers do well with visitors looking for value.
“I think that people are looking at the money they have to spend on a vacation and trying to figure out what makes the best use of that money,” he said.
Tina Soprano, who runs the River View Campground in Lake George with her family, agreed.
She said 2009 was great, and 2010 so far has been twice as busy, thanks to repeat customers and a lot of new faces. She thinks the economy is a bigger factor than weather, although sunny skies help,
“Last year was an unbelievable year, but this year the phone has not stopped ringing,” Soprano said.
Asked to quantify the increase over last year, Soprano said every weekend feels like a holiday — that, and there’s a lot more trash, she quipped.