|Campers make close-to-home feel like miles-away|
|Written by Todd Mishler/Walworth County Sunday|
|Thursday, 25 August 2011 14:18|
Brad and Denise Hagen of East Troy relax at their campsite while one of their twin sons, Patrick, plays in the background at Big Foot Beach State Park. Recreation officials say many campers are choosing to stay close to home to save both money and time. Terry Mayer/staff.
( Read the story in the e-edition HERE. )
LAKE GENEVA — The sluggish economy has forced increasing numbers of camping enthusiasts to seek haven in the great outdoors much closer to home.
And many of them are taking the whole idea of “staycation” to another level, pitching their tents or parking their campers only minutes away rather than hours, allowing them to enjoy the peace and tranquility while still participating in other family activities.
Anne Korman has been manager at Big Foot Beach State Park in Lake Geneva since May 2007 and said that many visitors to the 271-acre site plan their stays with exactly that kind of strategy in mind.
“We have families who come here to the park for a week while their children are attending soccer camp at Badger High School,” said Korman, who has worked for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for 23 years, including 15 at the Richard Bong State Recreation Area southeast of Burlington.
Korman said the trend definitely has been for families to spend their hard-earned cash at nearby facilities.
“Even most of our out-of-state campers live relatively close, like Crystal Lake and Rockford, because the Lake Geneva area always has been a great vacation destination,” Korman said. “But most of our business comes from in-state residents. They are trying to do things more economically, so for example, they’re unwilling to stay in hotels and are camping for a week.”
That appears to be the case at outdoor venues throughout Walworth County — where tourism jumped nearly 12 percent last year, the highest of any county in the state — and surrounding area.
That includes Snug Harbor, which is located on Turtle Lake just off County Highway P between Delavan and Whitewater, where Sharon Akright has been the campground manager for the last 10 years.
Akright said the campground hosts about a 50-50 mix of in- and out-of-state visitors.
“Most of our campers come on the weekends, and we get them from Darien, Delavan, Waterford and Janesville,” Akright said. “Our big draws are the lake and the tranquility. We have a small beach, but I would say many of our guests come more for the fishing. We’ve seen more weeklong campers than last year.”
Snug Harbor features 60 sites, which includes tent and recreational vehicle camping, and it offers a restaurant and pub. That is part of another trend in which facilities draw visitors with a myriad amenities (see below) to satisfy a variety of interests and all age groups.
That’s the situation at the campgrounds located in the Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit.
Jennifer Bartlett, a Michigan native who lives between Elkhorn and East Troy, spends at least one of her weekly shifts at Whitewater Lake Campground, where the station is manned Fridays through Sundays.
The facility features 63 sites combined in the east and west loops, while the nearby Hickory Woods offers seven group sites for 20 to 40 people.
“Whitewater Lake is the last of the four (Southern Unit) sites to fill up because it’s generally more rustic with no showers or electricity,” Bartlett said. “But it still usually fills up on weekends; I’m usually there on a Friday or Saturday and there’s usually only one or two sites open. We see about 40 percent of visitors from out of state.”
Ashley Murray is working as a visitor services associate with the forest’s southern unit for a sixth straight summer, spending most of her time at Ottawa Lake Campground between Eagle and Dousman. This facility sports 100 campsites, about half of them with electricity, and is the only year-round site of the four locations, so they even plow out several sites during the winter.
“Ottawa and Pinewoods have been full almost every weekend since I’ve been working here,” Murray said. “A majority of the campers are from Wisconsin, and most of them come from within 25 to 30 miles of the campground.”
For a list of top camping sites in the area, see the e-edtion HERE.