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Summer heat drives larger crowds to campgrounds

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Hot summer days are filling up beaches, parks, pools and campgrounds across St. Lawrence County.

Friends Jessica L. Young and Shannon M. Prevost, both from Ottowa, brought their kids down to camp at Coles Creek State Park, Waddington, where they enjoyed swimming in the St. Lawrence River.

“It’s cheaper camping down here than it is in Ontario,” Mrs. Prevost said. “The weather is beautiful, so I can’t complain.”

Plenty of others had the same idea. Mrs. Prevost and Mrs. Young picked Coles Creek in part because it was one of the only campgrounds in the area with any vacancies.

“We’ve had a good season so far, right from the start,” said Loretta E. Castagnier, bookeper at Coles Creek.

The park’s campsites have been booked nearly to capacity since it opened on May 11. The staff has had to buy extra ice and ice cream to meet increased demand, and are still running low.

“We just can’t keep up with it,” Mrs. Castagnier said.

The increased number of campers is continuing a trend from last season, said Michael J. O’Neil, director of Lisbon Campground. Despite a rainy summer, the campground had above-average occupancy in 2011, and this year it is even higher.

“We were up last year, but we’re up a little bit from last year,” Mr. O’Neil said.

Normally, 80 to 90 percent of campsites are filled during the busy summer months, according to Mr. O’Neil. This year, the camp has spent most weeks near maximum capacity.

More guests means more revenue for campgrounds, but they also bring extra challenges. Burnt grass might make mowing unnessecary, but bathrooms now have to be cleaned every hour, according to Mr. O’Neil.

Lisbon Campground has had to hire more people, especially lifeguards, to meet increased needs. The campground employes a total of about 50 people, mostly part-time.

Campers using plenty of air-conditioning has not been a problem, Mr. O’Neil said, because the campground upgraded their power grid last year.

The campground will be breaking ground on new sites in September to have them ready for next season.

Coles Creek employees about 20 people.

“We’re pretty efficent here, we’ve got some good help,” Mrs. Castagnier said.

Beaches and pools are prime destinations for those looking to beat the heat.

“It’s been extremely busy at the (municipal) pool,” said Matthew J. Curatolo, Ogdensburg Parks and Recreation Director.

At Lisbon Campground, up to five lifeguards may be on duty at a time during busy periods. The beach’s hours have been extended to 8 p.m., instead of closing at 7 p.m. as usual

“Our beach has been crowded, but it hasn’t been overcrowded,” Mr. O’Neil said.

The week of Independence Day is one of the busiest for campgrounds, but the season is far from over, with traditionally busy periods like Labor Day and homecoming celebrations coming later this summer.


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