In the next few weeks, trees will be planted along the east border of the newly proposed campground location. Over the next two to three years more trees will be planted as a shelterbelt to prepare for the building of the proposed new campground. The decision to move the campground in the next six to eight years will address shortcomings of the current aging campground site.
What You Need to Know
In order to fully understand the decision to move the campground, everyone needs to know some basic information about the campground. The current campground was built in 1971 by the Chamber of Commerce and when the Chamber dissolved it was later taken over by the Town and operated by the Tourism Committee. The Campground was then and is today one of the only businesses operated by the Town and it’s operations generate income. Although the campground numbers have dropped over the past several years the campground still generates approximately $60,000 a year. The new campground will have full-service sites increasing the potential for more revenue.
The current Campground employs a seasonal attendant, museum student, and profits help to contribute funds to local events and promote tourism. In addition, we know that the average person that stays in a campground, motel, or accommodations spends an average of $64.00 per day (according to Tourism Saskatchewan) at other businesses in the community. In a typical operating season of the campground that would mean an additional $90,000 to $150,000 of spending is done at other businesses in the community every year.
The campground has seen a number of upgrades over the years including water, 30 amp power at all sites and wifi. The Tourism Committee would also like to build a picnic shelter and new play area soon. The most important upgrade the Campground needs is larger sites to accommodate today’s RV’s. RV’s have changed significantly since the campground was first built. The average RV is 33ft long and many have slides that extend to add more room. To accommodate trailers today campground sites, need to be six meters wide by sixteen meters long. The current campground has 26 sites with electric and water and most sites are too short for an average trailer.
Also, the majority of the sites are narrow and people have difficulty extending slides in some sites and can’t open them in others. Even though our Campground gets great reviews for clean facilities and friendly staff we have been seeing a decline in campers and revenue decline over the past few years. The outdated size of the sites and lack of 50 amp power are no doubt major contributors to the problem. The power can be upgraded but the site size in the confines means less sites and or amenities.
How the new location was chosen for the Campground.
The campground needs access to water and sewer so it cannot be located very far beyond the confines of the town. The land at the chosen location is owned by the town and is not suitable for housing development. Further, the Town employed the services of Parks and Recreation Engineers to evaluate the suitability of the site to be used as a campground. Engineers believe the site is very suitable and the Council was consulted on what amenities we would like to have and a concept plan was developed.
Some people may be concerned about the close proximity of the train tracks but we are aware of successful campgrounds that are much closer to train tracks and others that are along major highways. It would appear that these are not great obstacles when people have a nice place to stay.
What is the Plan?
Over the next six to eight years the town will be planting trees to prepare the location for phase 1. Phase 1 and part of phase 2 may be the only phases that are developed in the foreseeable future. This will allow for 32 fully serviced RV Sites, Tenting Sites, Walking Trail, Picnic Shelter, Sani Dump and Main Building with bathrooms and showers. Once the Campground has been moved, the site of the old campground will be made into a new subdivision for homes. With services readily available, the site will be able to be easily developed and made ready for new homes. Future Councils will decide if they wanted to continue planting trees and move the plan forward or change the plan.
What will be the Cost and How will it be Paid For
The total cost estimate for completion of the Phase 1 is 1.4 million dollars that can be budgeted over the next six to eight years. Please keep in mind this estimation of costs was only based on a concept using Parks Canada campground development costs as a reference. As the campground is a business that makes money all funding from the Town will be repaid by the Campground much in the same manner as subdivision costs are recouped by the sale of lots. Council would also seek out Federal/Provincial grants to help fund the project. The proposed project would only move forward once sufficient funding options are in place.
What are the Benefits of the Campground
Much of the site building and construction will be able to be done by local businesses. Campground sites will be larger and offer privacy which is something that can not be done at the current location. The campground building will be a great improvement with modern bathrooms and showers, 50 amp sites, walking trail, tenting and a picnic shelter. The Campground would add a great green space for residents to enjoy the walking trails and or facilities such as the picnic shelter.
A modern Campground will attract more campers which will mean more revenue for the campground. More revenue for the campground means more money for the tourism committee to support tourism, local events, and facilities. Remember that for every day you can keep a tourist in a community they spend an average of $64.00 a day at other businesses. That means economic benefits for restaurants, bars, grocery stores, convenience stores, and gas stations.
Lastly, Don’t Sell Your Community Short
I have lived in our great town most of my life and been on Council for 10 years. I am often surprised how often some residents respond with great negativity to change and sell our community short. When my wife and I started furnishing our duplexes to operate them as Airbnb’s last year we had no doubt we would do ok but we did wonder how many people would stay in Gull Lake vs the city. I can tell you this, last summer we had very few days with vacancies and have done quite well in the off season as well. While we have had some people stay that come to visit family in Gull Lake the vast majority have no ties to the community. Many come from other provinces and communities in Saskatchewan. We have had guests stay with us and drive to attend weddings and events in Swift Current, Shaunavon, Stewart Valley. We have had other people stay and travel to the Sandhills, Grasslands National Park, and Cypress Hills because they liked that Gull Lake is central to these locations. Everyone that has stayed for two or three days have remarked how nice our town is and how friendly the people are and how surprised they are with all of the recreation facilities we have.