Freedom—May 3, 2020—In an eagerly awaited announcement, the governor on Friday authorized campgrounds to utilize fifty percent of their camping capacity to serve “state residents and members” during the current phase of the pandemic.
While the new state guidelines do not define “member” in the context of campgrounds, Ossipee State Representative William Marsh told Ossipee Lake Alliance his understanding is that the term includes people who have paid for the 2020 camping season.
“What [the governor] wants to avoid is people coming up for weekends and returning to their homes in viral hotspots, then coming back,” Marsh said. Marsh serves on the state’s Economic Reopening Taskforce.
Since campground administrative offices are prohibited from opening, reservations and related matters must be conducted online or by phone, per the guidelines. Campers will be instructed to stay home if anyone in their party is sick or may have been exposed to the virus.
Those who are admitted are required to self-quarantine for 14-days and follow the state’s other pandemic directives, including social distancing. Only half the usual number of campsites will be rentable, with a limit of 6-8 occupants per site and a “no visitors” rule in effect.
All indoor and outdoor public gathering areas will be closed, as will swimming pools, playgrounds and laundry rooms. Public bathrooms must be supplemented with one portable toilet for every 8-10 campers, and campground employees must be given protective equipment and be trained in hygiene, sanitation safe practices and illness policies.
Campground stores can be open, but they must adhere to the state guidelines for retail businesses, including cleaning protocols. The number of customers will be limited to half the store’s stated occupancy, and customers must wear face masks and be spaced at least six feet apart when queued outside for entry.
Representative Marsh said the state intends to enforce the guidelines, including using town health officers if warranted.
The governor’s decision comes on the heels of a lobbying campaign by municipal officials—including those from Freedom, Ossipee, Tamworth, Madison and Conway—to reverse the state’s decision to allow campgrounds to remain open while hotels, motels and inns were required to close. They argued that an influx of campers from COVID-19 hot spots could spike infections locally and overwhelm hospitals and clinics.
Campers, especially seasonal campers who spend half the year in New Hampshire, fought back, pointing out there are no restrictions on the owners of second-homes, many of whom left virus hot spots in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York to ride things out locally.
Some campers said they had nowhere to go if the campgrounds didn’t open, adding they were willing to forego amenities like pools and picnic areas and would maintain social distancing while shopping in area stores.
Most area campgrounds were closed during the winter and have been waiting for the state’s guidance. The Westward Shores Cottages and RV Resort website indicates a May 15 opening date, while the website for Danforth Bay Camping and RV Resort and The Bluffs RV Resort says an opening date will be published soon.
As of May 2, the New Hampshire Department of Public Health reported 32 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Carroll County, with clusters of five each in Bartlett and Wolfeboro, and eight in Conway. Statewide there have been 2,429 confirmed cases and 81 deaths.