Future of municipal campgrounds under consideration in Greater Sudbury

The new city council elected on October 24 will decide next year what to do with three municipal RV campgrounds, including Whitewater Lake Park, Centennial Park and Ella Lake Campground

The future of three municipal campgrounds is under consideration in Greater Sudbury, and the new city council elected on October 24 is expected to make a decision next year.

“They’ve been operating the status quo for decades,” Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland told Sudbury.com.

“It’s a matter of making sure there’s a community benefit, that there’s economic development related to the RV campgrounds that we help bring people into town for tourism, that we put highlight some of the most beautiful places in our city in these beautiful parks.

“If we can strike the right balance, campground operations will be reasonable, they will cover their costs and capital upgrades to bring them up to modern standards.”

The RV campgrounds in question include Whitewater Lake Park, Centennial Park and Ella Lake Campground, two of which McCausland says are likely viable to keep the city running long term.

With only 14 RV sites and limited room for expansion, McCausland said the Ella Lake campground has a real “limiting factor.” The campground also has two daily/weekly pitches.

“There aren’t many realities where it can make sense and still keep the price reasonable,” he said, later clarifying that he had no intention of advocating for park closures, but that the Ella Lake campground could be reassigned. Options could include installing picnic areas, a disc golf course, or a general park.

Centennial Park has a seasonal capacity of 52 spaces, which can be increased to 60 spaces. It also has seven daily/weekly sites and seven tent sites.

Whitewater Lake Park has a seasonal capacity of 20, which can be increased to 48. It also has four daily/weekly sites.

Although McCausland said big things are already happening at these campgrounds, like free concerts at Whitewater Lake Park every Thursday this summer at 7 p.m., they aren’t living up to their potential.

Brinley Finch was at his seasonal campsite next to a fire on Thursday alongside family members who joined him for the weekend for a visit, where they watched a performance of Chicks with Picks from a distance. Hundreds of people gathered closer to the musicians to watch the show while others attended at the nearby beach.

“It’s perfect,” Finch told Sudbury.com, adding that his site turned out to be an ideal location, next to the lake, for him to spend the summer in the area for a work opportunity. use.

Her grandmother, Beverley McNab, shared a similar review, noting that park attendant Jeannie Boucher went “above and beyond” by hosting them for the weekend.

Despite these positive reviews, McCausland said these parks have even greater potential.

“As times, trends and community needs change, we can pivot our parks to ensure they still meet current needs and the community as a whole.”

The city’s municipal campgrounds came into the public spotlight at the start of the pandemic, when they were closed as a cost avoidance measure. This drew attention to the fact that they were subsidized by the taxpayer.

In 2021, the RV seasonal rate increased from $1,557.52 to $1,911.50, achieving 100% operating cost recovery. This rate increased to $2,000 per season in 2022.

A report from the city’s recreation manager, Cindy Dent, informed city council last week that the three parks require a total of $1.8 million in capital works for things like water, shower, electricity, accessibility and gray water upgrade, as well as landscaping and a 20-per-cent contingency.

Spreading the cost of these upgrades over 18 years would require an increase in user fees of $101,978 per year over the life of the asset to achieve full cost recovery, which would require an increase in the seasonal rate at $3,449.75.

This price spike and the capital projects the city is moving forward with will require further public consultation and direction from the new city council, McCausland said.

Last week’s Community Services Committee saw city officials pass a motion put forward by McCaulsand whose preamble notes that it “envisages the revitalization and rationalization of our municipal RV campgrounds.” In a business case, the next city council will take into account the 2023 budget deliberations, it will consider the implications of the following potentials:

  • Increase the number of available campsites at Centennial Park to 60 and Whitewater Lake Park to 48
  • Centennial Park and Whitewater Lake Park continue operations starting with a 60/40 split of seasonal vs. daily campers
  • A phased improvement plan to prioritize potential capital investments in electricity, water, whitewater, Wi-Fi and other amenities should be implemented
  • Staff should work with economic development and tourism to determine potential benefits of increasing the number of daily campsites
  • The possibility of the septic systems at Centennial and Whitewater Lake parks being used by the general public for RV dumping on a pay-as-you-go basis be investigated
  • Information regarding the impact on municipal tax collection for the continued operation of the Ella Lake Campground and compare the impact with the costs associated with converting the campground to other uses recommended by staff, and
  • With the added benefit to the community as a whole, the potential user fees for RV campgrounds in the business case reflect the “less community/primarily individual” benefit category under the RV campground fee framework. use adopted by the council.

Once the city has all of that relevant information, McCausland said the city should reach out to the public to find out what they want to see happen in those parks.

“We shouldn’t make a decision about what’s going on there,” he said. “This should be subject to public consultation.”

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.