Blyth BIA hopes to better utilize Blyth Campground
BY DENNY SCOTT
North Huron Blyth Ward Councillor Kevin Falconer encouraged the Blyth Business Improvement Area (BIA) to create a committee of council to steer the future of the Blyth Campground.
During the BIA’s Feb. 25 meeting, Falconer said that would be the best way to continue to push the issue forward after that same request was turned down last year. At that time council felt it had too many committees of council, he said.
BIA Chair David Sparling explained he had spoken to the North Huron Economic Development Committee regarding the issue after being given a short-notice opportunity to prepare a presentation.
Sparling said the municipality is preparing a recreation master plan for this fall, however at that point, some opportunities may be missed to attract campers as a result of an increased interest in camping due to the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying travel restrictions.
He said the campground costs the municipality $50,000 a year, and with the increase in camping and the Blyth Festival’s plans for outdoor shows, that deficit could be reduced.
In his research, Sparling found that 59 per cent of all camping in 2019 was in tents, according to Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis (CBRE). The company also stated there is significant interest among campers to utilize cabins.
“For every three RVs, two people want to stay in a cabin,” he said.
CBRE reported that campgrounds with attractions for children, on-site recreation and pet-friendly amenities are sought for private campgrounds. Non-national park campers are more interested in clean and well-maintained restrooms, self-guided activities, cabins and pet-friendly amenities, he said.
Citing the report, Sparling said that among RV users, smaller vehicle sizes are more sought after. He said that more maneuverable, smaller RVs, which provide better mileage and climate control are desirable. Other popular aspects include larger water tanks, holding tanks and other features to allow for off-grid use.
Sparling cited several other reports showing that camping and RVing are growing industries in both the United States and Canada.
Sparling highlighted Elliott Park in Exeter, a municipal campground with eight campsites with minimal amenities, including fire pits, picnic tables and a dumping station. Despite being unserviced, the site is very popular and is booked most nights, Sparling said. He cited the three-night maximum for booking and online booking system for the success of the site.
Sparling said overnight travellers at the site, visit the downtown core where they eat out, walk the core and gas up before leaving.
“They get all that from [campfire pits] and picnic tables,” he said, adding the online booking system requires minimal staff time.
To help mirror the success of Elliott Park, Sparling suggested adding 25 picnic tables and 25 campfire pits to the northern camping spots at the Blyth Campground and automating the booking and payment system.
“We have water and electricity and we can do booking online,” he said. “If we add a few amenities, we’ve got what people would want.”
He said, in talking to campers, it’s become obvious that people are having trouble accessing campsites this year.
“With the [Goderich-to-Guelph (G2G) Rail Trail] and the Blyth Festival right there, I like to think we’ve got something to help North Huron lose less money,” he said.
Falconer said the $50,000 value thrown out isn’t just the campground, saying it’s the maximum allotted for maintenance to the grounds. He then suggested that the BIA once again pursue the creation of a committee of council.
“When you come to council, it’s advantageous to ask for a committee of council,” he said. “[North Huron staff are] busy, so we know if we put it back to them to look into it, they will reference the recreation master plan being done in the fall.
“In order to get council’s ear, a committee of council would be the best,” he said. “Then you wouldn’t have to worry about someone else’s time frame.”
The North Huron Economic Development Committee supported the project after Sparling presented it to council members during the committee’s Feb. 18 meeting.