Petition Asks Governor to Keep Campgrounds Closed During Pandemic

Conway—April 18, 2020—Although Gov. Chris Sununu has said campgrounds can open amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Mount Washington Valley officials and many residents fear he’s creating an unnecessary risk in these uncertain times. One official, State Rep. Anita Burroughs (D-Bartlett), is circulating on online petition that had gathered more than 777 signatures by 3 p.m. Friday.

During a press conference Thursday, Gov. Sununu said he has been “listening to a lot of constituents” and admits “there has been a lot of concern” about the campgrounds opening. But he and other state leaders are continuing to craft a “guidance directive that would allow them to stay open” that could be unveiled as early as next week.

According to the New Hampshire Campground Owners Association’s website, there are 150 campgrounds that are members of the association. Conway Fire Chief Steve Solomon, who opposes the governor’s stance on campgrounds, said there are 11 campgrounds in the Mount Washington Valley.

During his press call, Sununu said, “We’d probably limit the number of tent sites, along with how far apart they must be.” Sununu said campgrounds would have to use a reservation system with their guests. He also said that if it’s not working or public health is impacted, he “may have to pull the plug” on camping for the foreseeable future.

Later, in the hourlong news conference, Sununu was asked about people coming to the Granite State to recreate. “The New England and the Northeast all have stay-at-home orders,” he said. “You’re healthier at home in Massachusetts and in New York. At this time, it’s really about staying at home.”

He added: “This is no time to be vacationing in the White Mountains as beautiful as they are. This is the time to be in your home state and staying healthy.”

Glen Ellis Campground in Bartlett has been following the governor’s guidelines and is planning to open on May 14.

“I believe we can do this responsibly,” Michelle Rober of Glen Ellis told the Sun on Friday. “We’re taking a lot of precautions and are only going to open if we can do it in a way that is safe for our guests and staff.”

The campground, which is owned by Northgate Resorts of Grand Rapids, Mich., sits on 70 acres and has 243 campsites.

“As a local business, we want to open,” Rober said, “and we’re committed to doing it the right way. I know there is animosity about (the governor’s decision), but we really have an eye focused toward the future. We want to show that we can coexist and show ways that the local economy can start to get back to normal.”

Rober said Glen Ellis is geared toward families, with “99 percent” of its guests coming via reservations. The campground has installed a remote check-in with a smartphone app.

Sununu has asked that out-of-state visitors self-quarantine for 14 days when they come to New Hampshire. Rober said that is not something Glen Ellis can require guests to do as many are not making reservations for that long a stay.

She said the campground has recently purchased a high-powered pressure washer, which will be used to sanitize “everything we have every day.”

“We’re trying to be super-cautious and maybe take things further than needed,” she said. “Our goal is for this to work for everyone.”

Of Rober, Burroughs said: “Michelle is a dear friend of mine, but we respectfully disagree on this. It’s not about just the campsites, it’s about the (campers) going to recreation areas and going into the grocery stores. It just makes no sense for this to be happening now. I’ve heard from a lot of my constituents who urged me to do something.”

She added: “I talked with Michelle and told her one of my concerns is that people are going to see out-of-state (license) plates, and they are going to get harassed and may have their tires slashed.”

Burroughs started the online petition Thursday at 6 p.m. and was “surprised but not shocked” by the big response. “I’m hoping to get several thousand signatures,” she said.

Burroughs’ petition reads: “We, the citizens of New Hampshire are concerned about the potential for a large influx of visitors to our state during the COVID-19 pandemic. Opening Granite State campgrounds will bring an influx of thousands of people to our communities, significantly increasing the risk that our citizens will contract this virus.

“Many of our rural communities have small community hospitals, which could quickly become overwhelmed in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak. Some of these hospitals have a very limited number of beds and few ventilators designed to care for a small population. An explosion of the virus in these towns could quickly become an untenable situation.

“We understand the importance of opening our economy and getting people back to work. But this is not the time to invite thousands of visitors to recreate in our state. We ask that you continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and open our campgrounds only at such time as medical experts in the field deem it safe to do so.

“Governor Sununu, we urge you to protect the health of our seniors, our children, and other vulnerable individuals by keeping our campgrounds closed. Our lives depend on it.”

To see or sign the petition and read people’s comments, go to tinyurl.com/ybzdg7k8.

Laurie Bonica of the Tamworth Camping Area said they have adjusted their early-season plans. A scheduled work weekend on the 33-acre, 100-site campground planned for May 8 has been canceled.

The “traditional family campground,” as Bonica calls it, plans to open May 15 for the season, but in a limited capacity.

“We’ll probably only do seasonals for the first couple of weeks,” she said, referring to RVs, motor homes and campers, which need to be situated next to electrical hookups. “There will be no common areas open for at least the first two weeks. That will be tough for children who will want to use the playground.”

Bonica is anticipating approximately 30 seasonal campers coming on May 15.

The traditional powwow that was scheduled for May 15-17 has been rescheduled to Aug. 29-30.

“Hopefully by next weekend, we’ll see what the various government agencies allow us to do,” Bonica said. “We’re taking baby steps and will do what the powers that be tell us.”

Selectmen in Tamworth voted 5-0 on Thursday to send a letter to Gov. Sununu voicing concerns about opening campgrounds.

Selectman Rebecca Mason said medical facilities in the area don’t have the capacity to handle extra people from away if the pandemic gets worse.

“We are canceling rec programs, we are canceling Fourth of July, we are really trying to be very cautious here,” said Selectmen’s chairman Willie Farnum, who agreed with Mason.

Tamworth Police Chief Dana Littlefield said even if the campgrounds took the “proper provisions,” the campers would still be “out and about in the community.” He said the campgrounds inundate Dunkin Donuts and the Dollar General on Route 16 with customers.

Although the town of Jackson does not have any campgrounds, its police chief Chris Perley admits he’s concerned about the governor’s stance.

“As a community, we enacted an ordinance prohibiting boondocking (camping on town property without permission), the regulation does cause some concern,” he said Thursday.

“As a law enforcement agency, we are regularly asking residents to avoid any unnecessary travel along with other social restrictions. It seems contradictory to then also say, as a matter of policy, that people near and far can travel here to stay and recreate. This makes obtaining voluntary compliance from the citizenry more difficult. It also increases traffic and activity that stresses emergency services at all levels.”

11 Comments

  1. Leah 4 months ago April 18, 2020

    I have been enjoying ossipee lake for 20 + years. I was a seasonal camper for years before moving to Ossipee year round 2 years ago. Ossipee is my home, it is where I am “sheltering in place”. The Hannaford in Ossipee is where I cautiously shop. Right now in Carroll County there are 32 confirmed cases of Covid19 and 0 deaths. I love it when the summer people come to ossipee and enjoy Ossipee Lake and all it has to offer. However, I am nervous about the cause and effect of the increase in people coming from southern NH, Massachusetts and neighboring states and thus the increase of Covid19 cases in Carroll County.

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  2. Patricia Kaligian 4 months ago April 19, 2020

    We own a home at Totem Pole in Freedom. Pay taxes etc.
    We would stay in the house for the 14 days. Our park here closes so do not have much choice.

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  3. Jacqueline Hessler 4 months ago April 19, 2020

    Our concern is in line with the petition. We are elderly and have several underlying conditions. PLEASE OBSERVE THE GUIDE LINES AND REFRAIN FROM OPENING OF CAMP GROUNDS IN MAY.

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  4. P. W. H. Tung 4 months ago April 19, 2020

    Numbers continue to climb daily. They will surge – that is the term in use -then it will be too late. The influx, mainly from our neighboring State, rated 3rd in the country with cases and deaths, will most likely not abide by safe practices. Those that perish hence will be on the Governor’s conscience. Life is far more precious than money. Besides what good is money if you’re dead?

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  5. Audrey Mancuso 4 months ago April 19, 2020

    They can’t keep e-coli out of our swimming water over in Freedom! I’m pretty sure social distancing won’t even be discussed. This is a no brainer but we all know the all mighty buck is involved. Do as I say not as I do.

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  6. Sally 4 months ago April 19, 2020

    So it alright for the seasonal campers to pay up front to enjoy a campground and to pay taxes to the town that the campground is in, but don’t come and use your site. We just want your money! I live in Massachusetts and I see more New Hampshire and Maine cars on the road than mass cars. I feel as though there is a big double standard! I get the fear and the uncertainty but I don’t spend thousands of dollars a year to just waste on nothing. For many going to New Hampshire is there second” summer” home.

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  7. Matthew 4 months ago April 20, 2020

    Why would I be wanting to spend thousands of dollars towards a site that I am not gonna be able to use the double standard NH has during this but will have hundreds of drivers on mass roads like how in any way is that fair. If we arent allowed to the campgrounds your not allowed in our state. If they close I want my money back before they start saying refunds not available. All of you NH residents are saying we are scared to let others into our state. How about you stay home and let everybody else enjoy it and let’s see how fair it is to you!!!!!!!

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  8. Tony D 4 months ago April 21, 2020

    Printing the comment about slashed tires was an ignorant thing to do. Are you trying to promote violence ?

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  9. John Cameron 4 months ago April 22, 2020

    Tamworth Police Chief Dana Littlefield said even if the campgrounds took the “proper provisions,” the campers would still be “out and about in the community.” He said the campgrounds inundate Dunkin Donuts and the Dollar General on Route 16 with customers.

    I like how people overstate the facts to promote their agenda. Has anyone ever seen more that 5 cars at dollar general during the summer and most of them are locals. Also, Dunkin has a drivethru no social contact

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  10. Soon to be HOMELESS 4 months ago April 23, 2020

    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. This is about to create a surge of individuals in the same situation as we are. Many Seasonal’s are about to become homeless and roaming with nowhere to go. I personally feel it will be in everyone’s best interest to allow us use of our seasonal homes so that we are contained at one location. 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.

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  11. Jeff Casey 3 months ago April 30, 2020

    If my relatives come to their seasonal site from Flordia and then the governor closes the campgrounds in New Hampshire would they have to move out or would they get to stay at the Bluffs in Danforth?

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