Freedom—May 14, 2020—It’s a measure of how quickly the state’s guidance on campgrounds is evolving that a revised set of recommendations and restrictions went into effect before some of the lake’s campgrounds were able to open up and implement the original guidelines.
Chief among the changes made by the Governor’s Economic Reopening Task Force is that campgrounds may now fill 100% of their RV campsites. Under the previous rule, issued on May 1st, campgrounds could only utilize half of their total number of campsites. The 50% limit now applies solely to campsites not set up for RVs, such as tent sites.
All campers must still be a state resident or a “member” of the campground, the latter meaning they have “an arrangement that involves a binding and ongoing legal or monetary commitment to a particular campground or campsite.” “Members” can be from any state, but the arrangement must have been in place prior to May 1st.
Such “membership” arrangements are typically made by seasonal campers—those who plan to spend all or most of the summer at the campground—and officials last month acknowledged that the intent of the “member” rule was to discourage people from short-term camping.
But neither the new guidelines nor the previous set of rules establishes a minimum amount of time that campers must stay in order to qualify as a “member.” For example, a camper who made a reservation prior to May 1st for a summer weekend would appear to qualify.
The original guidance also required people coming from outside the state to self-quarantine for two weeks, which the state hoped would discourage seasonal campers from commuting back and forth from their home, especially if they’re from a COVID-19 hot spot. But the self-quarantine requirement has been demoted to a recommendation in the new guidelines.
Moreover, the way in which the guidelines establish state residents and “members” as separate classes of people may reasonably be interpreted as permitting campgrounds to admit any state resident at any time, for any amount of time, something perhaps not intended by the Task Force.
For example, while a “member” must have made a reservation or made a down payment prior to May 1st, there is no such requirement for state residents. A state resident who held off making plans until the state’s legal dust settled may bring an RV to the lake for any amount of time provided that the campground makes a space available.
Another change to the state’s guidance makes it permissible for campgrounds to open indoor and outdoor gathering areas as long as there are no more than 10 people at a time and six feet of social distancing space is maintained. The May 1st guidance required such spaces to be closed.
Face coverings while in public spaces are encouraged but not required, and while back-up portable toilets for campers using non-RV campsites are still mandated, the formula for determining how many toilets are needed has been dropped.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the prohibition against opening swimming pools and playgrounds, which will remain closed. The state guidance was, and remains, silent on the use of the lake and shoreline for swimming and water sports.
The Season Arrives
In spite of the restrictions and uncertainties, long-time campers appear excited about the upcoming season—as are campground owners.
A Facebook post by Westward Shores Cottages and RV Resort heralded “GREAT NEWS!” in referring to the governor’s relaxing of the 50% capacity rule. “You read that right,” said the post. “We can now accept all seasonal campers at opening! We’re so excited to see all of you soon!”
Campers responded with enthusiasm, even though some said they were still confused by the guidelines. Westward Shores opens on Friday, May 15th, and plans to stay open for an extra week this fall on the approval of Ossipee officials. The campground’s website says beachfront areas are closed at this time.
The lake’s other major camping complex, The Bluffs and Danforth Bay Camping and RV Resort, opened this week. The Bluffs, an RV-oriented facility, welcomed back all of its seasonal campers on Wednesday. Danforth Bay opened the same day, but is only honoring reservations for New Hampshire residents.
The two campgrounds have a mix of amenities that are open, such as tennis, and amenities that are closed, including playgrounds and pools. All indoor areas remain closed, and gathering on the shoreline is prohibited. Campers must have onboard bathroom facilities in their camping unit.
Thomas Prindle, Director of Marketing for the Hoyt family businesses, which include The Bluffs and Danforth Bay, told Ossipee Lake Alliance the business is taking it very slowly in opening up for the season.
“Our approach is to balance what the state says is permitted with what we’re comfortable doing,” he said.
“We’re trying to be mindful about doing the right thing for the community in which we operate as well as for our campers.”