Public and Private Campgrounds

By : CONNIE GALLANT March 22, 2022

There's more talk these days about cooperation between private RV parks and state park campgrounds. With drastic government funding cutbacks to state parks, and concern that private parks could also suffer loss of clientele (particularly during the seemingly never-ending pandemic), a marriage between the two formerly competing parties is being contemplated and has already been put into action in some states. But there's controversy.


State parks nationwide are suffering funding cuts and some are now welcoming private owners to run some existing campgrounds within certain parks. Several states are trying this new idea, but the change has resulted in plenty of negative feedback from the public. Why wouldn't cooperation between the parks and private owners, often viewed as competitors, be a good thing for all concerned? Why are some outdoor enthusiasts and private owners angry?


Historically, state parks are special places set aside for public enjoyment and contemplation of natural wonders or historic buildings and commemorations of events, such as Civil War battles. Some state parks have limited or no campground facilities; however, some state parks boast that their amenities include the location in which you are in, such as the great outdoors, the forests, trails, hiking and biking paths, or even a beach (such as Fort Worden State Park  in Port Townsend, WA that offers hook-ups and other amenities - and a beautiful long beach to walk on and enjoy the scenery).


 (Beach, Fort Worden State Park, Washington State)


The functions of private campgrounds and RV parks tend to be in the categories of temporary accommodation for RV travelers (hook-ups) and/or tent campers. They also emphasize amenities such as swimming pools, game rooms, outdoor play equipment for kids, laundry facilities, classes, movies, golf, and perhaps even a restaurant. In fact, some private park owners have expressed enthusiasm for bringing more "amenities" to state park campers.


(Private Campground)


Administrators of state parks, hungry for revenue, see such marriage as a viable opportunity to keep parks open. Private park owners who favor the proposition see it as expanding their money-making opportunities


What emerges from all the scuttlebutt is that it's likely state park campers will see increased fees, possibly making overnight visits unfeasible for some families - although in general, state park campsites are cheaper than private parks; however, while amenities such as swimming pools, play equipment, and other expanded facilities may increase, the original focus and reason for visiting the park in the first place could be lost.


During the pandemic, which appears not to truly end any time soon because of all the variants popping up, and especially during the recent fuel hikes, RVers may have a better advantage of finding good locations available, since many folks may opt to stay home, thus making more opportunities for the RV adventurers.


(Cover photo courtesy of Port Townsend Leader)


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