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County shows increase in RV park rentals

ALPENA — As the City of Alpena explores the possibility of building an RV park at Mich-e-ke-wis Park, Alpena County owned campgrounds and the parks committee have begun making plans and improvements to accommodate more RVs.

Managers of the parks said 2017 was a good year and they expect 2018 to be as good, if not better. They said the the use of RVs by campers continues to climb and all are taking steps to attract more.

Long Lake Park is hoping to take advantage of improvements to the park and additional room to accommodate larger campers. According to Park Manager Sarah Jore, a new bathhouse and playground are being built and some of the parks 95 campsites are being groomed to accommodate more and larger RVs. She said the numbers of campers using RVs is increasing so it is important the park adapt to the trends of its customers.

“When the sites were made many years ago they were smaller and more rustic. We’re going to be taking trees out so they can fit a 40-foot camper,” Jore said. “Last year we saw mostly RVs and fewer pop-up campers and tents. It seems they keep getting bigger and bigger, so we need to make more room for them.”

Beaver Lake Park Manager Earl Martin said it was a very good year at the park, as it was at Long Lake Park and Sunken Lake Park. He said there are 58 lots that range in size, but most of them are 33 feet wide and 40-plus feet deep. He said there are both 10 and 50 amp electrical hookups available so even a large RV can be supplied power. Martin, who is entering his eighth year managing the facility, said he has noticed a large increase in the number of RVs being used for camping.

“In my years here it is amazing to see the number of them and the size of them,” he said. “I think we are going to see the same this year and expect to continue to see them get larger and more elaborate.”

Alpena County Parks and Recreation Committee Chairman Jeff Kowalski said it is important all of the county campgrounds be able to accommodate as many RVs as space allows. He said people who own RVs tend to stay longer when visiting and spend more money. That helps raise income, which can be used to maintain and improve the parks.

Kowalski said even though there have been improvements made to make room for larger RVs, turn radiuses and a lack of concrete slabs on campsites still can be a hindrance for campers. He said oftentimes RV owners want as many amenities as possible, including wifi and even cable.

“We are trying to play catch up and fix some of these things, make more room at the parks and we are going to keep working to keep up with the demand,” Kowalski said. “Right now Sunken Lake Park is the only one we have that has wifi, but it is something we’ll continue to work towards at the other ones.”

The only park in the city limits where people can camp with an RV is the Alpena County Fairgrounds. There are 69 sites that have power, 12 sites on the river, showers and holding tank disposal. The county has tried for years to increase the number of campers at the fairgrounds, but it doesn’t enjoy the same success as the other campsites outside the city limits.

Maintenance Superintendent Wes Wilder said the county has made improvements to the fairgrounds to make it more appealing for campers, especially those who own RVs, but for the most part it is under utilized.

“Most of the time it is used by local people during the fair or the Fourth of July when families and friends will get together and camp,” Wilder said. “That being said, I do think our numbers went up last year and although I don’t have any final numbers, it sure seemed that way.”

The fairgrounds is on the Thunder Bay River and has a pair of boat launches for boaters, kayakers and those using canoes. Swimming isn’t ideal and there really isn’t a beach area for campers to enjoy.

“I think the reason we don’t see the people at the fairgrounds like we do at the other parks is because we’re not on a lake.” he said.

Reservations are being accepted at the campgrounds or by calling the parks. More information about them are available on the county’s website.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews.

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