State-run New Jersey campgrounds evicted campers on Tuesday (July 4) as part of the unprecedented state-government shutdown that followed a showdown among state law makers over the state’s budget. But the shutdown did not necessarily mean an immediate windfall for the state’s 104 private RV parks and campgrounds.
“In the state there are 17 state parks with camping facilities and in those 17 there are only 1,300 campsites,” Jay Otto, executive director of the New Jersey Campground Owners Association (NJCOA), told Woodall’s Campground Management. “We have 25,000 sites in the private sector.”
“We don’t consider the state parks as much competition because they don’t have any hookups, so it’s mostly tenters,” he said. “They don’t allow pets, either.”
In talking with his members on Wednesday, Otto found little trickle over from the state closings.
Ed Risdon, owner of Harmony Ridge Campground near Branchville in northwest New Jersey, said he hadn’t noticed any impact yet. His campground adjoins Stokes State Park which was closed. “If they can’t go to the state parks, they may come to us,” he said.
Campers at Belleplain State Forest near Cape May cleared out of the entire campground by Tuesday afternoon, according to park staff. The park closed and locked its main gate at 8 p.m.
Staff at the park office helped some vacationers find accommodations at private campgrounds as a vacation alternative, the Atlantic City Press reported. Some of the campers had arrived from Canada on Monday, expecting to stay for a week.
The state already closed historic sites such as Somers Mansion in Somers Point and the Cape May Lighthouse in Lower Township. State parks, including Cape May Point State Park and Island Beach State Park, also were closed.
Otto surmises campers evicted by the state will be hard-pressed to find accommodations on the weekends, as most of the private parks are booked through the summer, Otto said. Demand for spaces is brisk.
Otto closed his office on Monday afternoon for the holiday and when he returned on Wednesday found 92 e-mail or phone requests for NJCOA’s campground guide.
He said people from outside the state are likely confused by the news of the shutdown. “The way it’s reported on radio and TV, they’re saying all the state parks and beaches are closed. There are only two beaches in the state that are closed. Everything else is open because they’re not state run,” he said.
Otto expects a speedy settlement between the governor, Jon Corzine, a Democrat, and his fellow Democrats in the state legislature. Their failure to reach a budget agreement forced the government shutdown. “People will get so disgusted in a short period of time that it will be settled,” Otto predicted.
The shutdown also closed the casinos in Atlantic City and the state lottery. The state is losing $1 million a day in tax revenue just from the casino closings, Otto noted.