Freedom—April 19, 2020—Ossipee Lake’s campgrounds and RV parks are scheduled to open in a matter of weeks, potentially bringing hundreds of campers to the lake and surrounding communities from Massachusetts and other states hard hit by the COVID-19 virus.
Freedom State Representative Jerry Knirk is trying to prevent that from happening. Knirk is one of a growing number of area officials who have petitioned the governor to keep campgrounds closed until medical officials say it’s safe to open them.
Early this month, the governor gave campgrounds a lifeline by allowing them to remain open during the pandemic “for the purposes of providing parcels of land rented for the placement of a tent or recreational vehicle.”
In a post on Freedom’s Community Message Board last week, Knirk said the campground exemption fails to take into account that many such businesses are marketed as resorts and operate like hotels. Most hotels, motels, inns and related lodgings are closed, having been designated as non-essential businesses. Knirk thinks campgrounds should also be on that list.
“The governor does not understand that we are not talking about rustic camping,” Knirk wrote. “This poses a real problem for health care resources in the Lakes Region and Mount Washington Valley.”
Knirk is not alone in his position. An online petition asking the governor to keep campgrounds closed was posted last week by Bartlett’s State Representative Anita Burroughs. As of Sunday evening, close to 2,200 people had signed it.
In Tamworth, the Select Board voted unanimously to send a letter to the governor saying the arrival of thousands of out of state visitors in May could spread the virus and overwhelm local hospitals.
Conway has the same worries. The town’s Fire Chief, Steve Solomon, told the N.H. Union Leader that the town has already seen an influx of weekenders from coronavirus hot spots like Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut despite orders in those states discouraging interstate travel. Thousands of additional vacationers escaping to Mount Washington Valley and becoming sick here could quickly overwhelm Conway’s small community hospital, Solomon told the paper.
To illustrate the point about strained public health facilities, Knirk cited Freedom’s Danforth Bay Camping and RV Resort in a letter he sent to Jonathan Ballard, the chief medical officer of the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services.
Knirk said town officials estimated there were 3,500 people at the campground on July 4th last year. He asked Ballard to consider the impact of the return of those campers on top of the return of families with seasonal homes and Freedom’s 1,600 permanent residents.
“An explosion of COVID 19 cases in our area will quickly overwhelm Memorial [Hospital], leaving no care for those of us who live here,” he said, noting that the hospital has 25 critical care beds and just a few ventilators.
Danforth Bay Camping and RV Resort is closed at the moment and is not accepting reservations for the spring season. But its website says it is “accepting and encouraging” reservations for summer vacations even as it waits for state guidance regarding activities and pool use.
Another of Ossipee Lake’s major campgrounds, Westward Shores Cottage and RV Resort, plans to open on May 15. Its website says the business has “elevated our sanitation measures” by increasing the cleaning and disinfecting of door handles, sports equipment and baby changing stations, among other things.
The website also contains a list of precautionary measures that visitors should take while on-site, including frequently washing hands, avoiding contact with people who are sick, and staying home if flu-like symptoms appear.
State Representative Bill Marsh, who represents Ossipee, said in a phone interview with the Alliance that “the details are important” in any decision that’s made about opening campgrounds in the near-term.
He thinks it’s possible to operate a campground if campers coming from out of state self-quarantine for two-weeks, maintain adequate social distancing and only use the bathroom in their RV. But he was firm in his opinion that communal bathrooms, pools, water slides and bathhouses need to be closed, as things stand.
“This is a fast-moving virus and the situation changes daily, so we’re going to have to react continuously to the facts as we have them,” he said.
Children’s Camps Also a Concern
Marsh is also concerned about the operation of children’s summer camps, which have been left out of the current discussion, perhaps because the main camping season doesn’t begin until mid-June or later. Ossipee Lake has five such camps, some of which offer pre-season adult and family programs.
He said limits that might be feasible to put in place at RV-oriented campgrounds are impossible at children’s camps, with their communal bunkhouses, dining halls, bathrooms and showers, not to mention group sports.
Marsh likened the challenges at summer camps to the situation with schools, most of which were closed early in the pandemic because of the threat of asymptomatic children contracting the virus in the classroom and carrying it home to their parents and grandparents.
He said many children planning to attend the area’s camps come from COVID-19 hot spots like New York and Massachusetts, where parents have seen the illness up close and may have had friends or relatives sickened or killed by it.
“It’s possible that the summer camp issue will resolve itself in the coming weeks if parents decide not to put their child into a communal living environment this summer and camps are forced to cancel the season,” he said.
“But a lot could change in the next two months. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Keep them closed. We are doing well up here but food supples are still very limited. We will have none if they open up.
Stay safe and stay strong!
The critical issue is to prevent the spread of the Covid-19. STAY AT HOME. We should all be safety conscious and be considerate of everyone else’s wellbeing.
Just think, if you were living in a ‘low infected’ area, would you appreciate visitors from a ‘high infected’ area coming for a vacation?
No one should come for “vacation” I totally agree. But what about those of us who have invested in seasonal homes at campgrounds and we live there for 6 months or more? why is that different from someone owning a condo or a home? Tell me that all of those people will be stopped from coming and that would be fair. The compromise is simple: seasonals ONLY, 2 week quarantine on site, and no common facilities.
Some folks have literally no where else to go..these are not campers that people come and go to. These are homes. and we support the local communities. we should be working together, not creating a divide.
Keep them closed until we are showing progress on spread. Less people on the lake is a good thing for everyone. Campgrounds have too much people in close proximity and will only serve to spread more in a rural area.
If they are homes that people have for six months of the year, they should be allowed at the sites. Very easy to limit to only those people. Lets use common sense too.
Those of us who own self-contained campers and park models, for instance at The Bluffs at Danforth Bay, and have already paid in full for our 6-month seasonal lease, would be happy to self-quarantine for 14 days. We don’t need organized activities and shared facilities to keep us happy. We just want to be in beautiful New Hampshire for the summer. Our sites are roomy and we’re no closer together than homes in a town.
Please consider opening up for seasonal residents in RVs only. These are summer residences just like cabins and condos.
I understand that these are unusual decisions that have to be made, but, we have already paid in full for access to our 6 month seasonal home. There are many of us that are full time residents in the summer. Of course we should all quarantine for the 2 weeks, without questions, no group activities, no problem, but the full time seasonal residents should have access to their homes.
We are condo owners at Patch Pond. We love our 5 month stay each year. BUT if keeping the campgrounds closed will help keep our beautiful lakes and areas as clean as they are we will wait this year, Allowing the campgrounds to be open also makes a BIG difference on the folks who live there and have to get groceries. We have family in Stowe, Vt. They had a terrible time when people from NY and NJ came up to escape and Stowe was overrun. The mountains had to be closed. . Please KEEP THE CAMPGROUNDS CLOSED!
Self quarantine doesn’t help grocery stores etc.
We have already paid for our seasonal site at the Bluffs AND taxes to the town of Freedom (for which we get NOTHING in return (not even allowed to use the town dump). We should be able to use our camp!!!!
I also have a seasonal site at the Bluffs. I paid in full close to 4000 dollars plus 400 to the town of freedom. We pay taxes and get nothing for the checks we write. I also dish out 700 dollars for boat storage and 2000 for in and out service at the marina. I wonder if we will be reimbursed if the state shuts us down? If I have to eat the cost I will not be returning next year.
I’m a seasonal at Danforth Bay and pay Freedom taxes. If this state rep wants to close the campground, then state and town should give back all the tax money and seasonal fees to all seasonal campers. Then, I will be glad to stay home for everyone’s safety. The campground should not pay for some state officials inadequate and unguided decisions. I see a lot of NH residents crossing the border. What’s the state doing about those people bringing it back to NH? Just remember what brings revenue to the state.
We also have a seasonal campsite and have paid a lot of money already for the season, dock fees and taxes for the privilege of staying in Ossipee for the summer. We are full time RVers and we own a self contained motorhome. We should be able to use our camp because we (as well as others in the same situation) don’t have anywhere else to go. We can self quarantine without any trouble. We don’t need the group activities.
I’m of two minds, being retired and living fulltime in Freedom. it’s disconcerting to think of the large numbers of summer people flooding the area. Our state motto, Live free or die may become our epitaph. That said living here with with sensible laws and restrictions is a credit to our state. A compromise must be found not exclusion
We are also seasonal residents of the Bluffs with a self-contained fifth wheel, which is our second home. Seasonal Campers will hopefully be allowed to live in our summer homes , self quarantine for fourteen days and continue with social distancing.
I am a seasonal camper at The Bluff’s (a 50+ adults-only section of Danforth Bay Camping Resort in Freedom, New Hampshire.) We are usually at our seasonal site from May 1st to around October 15th each year. The remaining 6 months of the year we are snow birds at another seasonal location which we must leave by April 30, 2020. These locations are our residents. We pay leases on the land lots as well as Taxes to the towns. We will be homeless if we are not allowed to use our seasonal home in the Bluff’s Seasonal Camp Ground. As a seasonal camper, we have a self-contained Park Model unit (equivalent of a little house) complete with full bathroom, full kitchen and a full size appliances. The Seasonal Sites at The Bluff’s are large and separated from neighboring sites. No different than a Mobil Home Park. Maintaining a 14 day quarantine as well as social distancing would be extremely easy. We can bring all our needs with us for said 14 days while quarantined.
The campground wouldn’t even have to open any restrooms or public area’s since all seasonal sites are self contained with sewer, water, electricity, WiFi and TV.
The NH Governor’s Covid-19 guidelines will easily be able to be adhered to by The Bluff’s Seasonal Residents.
Common sense needs to be what rules IF the State is open for business, why would you not want the SEASONALS to come and live there? There are many who live down South for 6 mos and then NH for 6 mos, NH is their home for goodness sake, IF well now and having quarantined for weeks, let us go to our seasonals at The Bluffs or wherever we have seasonals in NH. The sites are separated with lots of fresh air in between, we all want to stay well so we will keep our distances of course. YOU are harming the businesses that depend on the seasonals if you do not allow campgrounds to stay open!