Hurricane Rita caused considerable damage to several RV parks and campgrounds near the Texas-Louisiana state line, according to campground operators and industry officials.
The hardest hit campgrounds include Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp Resort in Lake Charles, La., and East Lucas RV Park in Beaumont, Texas. However, it could be several weeks before a full assessment can be made because of interruptions in telephone service throughout the region.
“We talked to several parks in Port Arthur, Orange and Beaumont before the hurricane and we’ve been trying to reach them (since then), but have not been able to,” said Brian Schaeffer, executive director and CEO of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO). “Those entire areas are under water.”
TACO has received phone calls and e-mail messages from several east Texas park owners who say their facilities have sustained damage, including East Lucas RV Park. “The park really suffered a tremendous amount of damage,” Schaeffer said, adding that the owners have said they probably will not rebuild.
The Jellystone Park in Lake Charles, La., was also severely damaged, said Dean Crawford, senior vice president of Milford, Ohio-based Leisure Systems Inc., which franchises Jellystone Park campgrounds across the country. In an e-mail message to RVBUSINESS.com, Crawford said, “The park took a big hit. Most of the trees are down. Many cabins (were) hit by trees. The store roof has caved in a couple of places. (The) pavilion is still standing, but the roof is damaged.”
Schaeffer said the hurricane was originally forecast to strike near Galveston, but when it turned east, it caught many campground operators by surprise. “Many of those parks were already full of evacuees from (Hurricane) Katrina,” he said. “It was very emotional for some of those folks. Some RVers said, ‘All we have left is our RV.’ ”
Some campgrounds have also reported problems with the evacuees. “I guess last night, one of the evacuees broke into (a campground) office and stole $500 from their cash register,” Schaeffer said. “You try to help people and occasionally things don’t work out the way they’re supposed to.”
Generally speaking, however, campground officials have reported few problems with evacuees and many parks continue to offer accommodations to hurricane refugees who need a place to stay. “Our parks everywhere throughout central Texas are all full,” Schaeffer said, noting that TACO’s website, www.texascampgrounds.com, has a section that lists parks offering accommodations to hurricane refugees.
Schaeffer also said that many campgrounds and RV parks in northern Texas provided temporary accommodations for Houston and Galveston residents who headed north to wait out Hurricane Rita.
Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) campgrounds in Dallas, Killeen, Lake Corpus Christi, Mount Pleasant, San Antonio, Texarkana and Waco were among the campgrounds that hosted evacuees from the Houston area, said Mike Gast, KOA’s director of communications. “The campers were a good bunch, even though they were everywhere,” he said.