Champlain Township may be getting out of the campground business.
At the township’s August 24 recreation liaison committee meeting, L’Orignal Councillor Jacques Lacelle suggested bowing out of running the L’Orignal Campground. Lacelle contends that the campground runs an annual deficit and that recent improvements to the electrical service at the campground incurred a debt, which will be paid off at the rate of $30,000 per year until 2024. A $320,000 electrical upgrade was undertaken in 2009 to improve services at most of the campground lots.
The campground, which has existed since the 1960s, currently ends each year with a deficit, but that takes into account the electrical upgrade repayments. In 2016, the campground ended the year with a $28,000 deficit and ended 2015 with a $26,760 deficit.
At the township’s regular council meeting, Champlain Mayor Gary Barton said “It’s not a done deal yet,” and mentioned that a meeting would be organized at the Chalet Abri in L’Orignal Park sometime soon to bring residents in the loop.
Lacelle says if the campground is sold and there is any residual profit, these funds should be directed first to any outstanding debt and then used to build a new community hall in L’Orignal.
Lacelle says that the campground offers no benefit to local taxpayers. About two of the 50 lots are rented by Champlain residents, he said.
A September report from the recreation department indicated that transient sales at the park to date for 2017 are $12,000.
As of August 31, there were 23 seasonal clients and 27 vacant lots.
Times have changed, says Champlain Township Recreation and Parks Director Lisa Burroughs.
Campers tend to move from place to place, instead of staying in the same spot for an entire summer, she says.
“We can’t compete with the private campgrounds, which have pools, activities and a restaurant on-site. We have swings in the park and there is the beach and the Ottawa River, but not everyone wants to swim there,” she noted.
And as seasonal campers want more of the comforts of home, like full kitchens, televisions and more, a further electrical upgrade to support 50-amp service (The 2009 upgrade saw lots upgraded to 30-amp service, while four transient lots were upgraded to 50-amp systems.)
This past year, Burroughs said she installed WI-FI as an effort to make the campground more attractive.
Improvements were also made to improve the welcome/registration area.
Formerly, an employee was working out of a garage, but this year, Burroughs said, an extension was added to the Chalet Abri as a more welcoming place for people to book a camping site.
It will take money to make money, Burroughs says, but it will be up to council to decide what happens.
“Sometimes I think people don’t know we have a campground and a marina. These are all like little businesses which operate within the recreation department. We have the summer camp, the parks, Sacha’s Park, the arena in Vankleek Hill and the reception all — these all take time and money to manage,” Burroughs said.
Improvements were made to the reception hall in Vankleek Hill, but Burroughs noted that it is still not fully booked.
Nowadays, couples don’t necessarily have a wedding and then book a hall for the reception.
“Times are changing and we have to go with the times. Perhaps a long-term plan would help. But I focus my attention according to council’s wishes,” Burroughs said.
For Oktoberfest, which takes place September 22 and 23, overflow campers are to be directed to the L’Orignal Campground, according to the report. Burroughs noted that a partnership with Tourisme Prescott-Russell also served to promote the campground to a wider audience.
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