As a difficult economy continues wearing on families nationwide, the growing number of people searching for cheap, local getaways is evident at the newly expanded campground at Winton Woods Park in suburban Cincinnati, Ohio.
After the debut of a $2.7 million renovation on Memorial Day weekend, cabins there were fully booked and pulled in about 500 people for the three-day stretch, according to cincinnati.com.
Weekend reservations for the cabins are booked through mid-August.
“There’s a demand for it,” said Jim Rahtz, deputy director for the Hamilton County Park District. “It was the first time we’ve ever done full-service cabins like this before, and we’ve gotten a lot of compliments on the new campsite.”
The expansion features eight deluxe cabins, 25 back-in and 12 pull-through RV sites with complete hookups. The new amenities mean campers can now have water, sewage and electric services.
The cost of the 18-month renovation came out of the county’s park levy, said Bill Mowery, manager of recreation facilities.
The project should pay for itself over 12 years. Park officials expect an additional $212,000 in revenue this year. That amount is projected to climb to about $300,000 in five years.
“The more we can support ourselves, the less (money) we have to ask from taxpayers,” Mowery said.
The expansion was driven mostly by demand, park officials said. As gas prices rose and the economy began to tank, families started flocking to campgrounds.
Mowery estimates about 80% of campers at Winton Woods are local residents.
“Camping’s fairly low cost, and it’s something they don’t have to take a week off work for,” Mowery said. “Families are looking for ways to get away from the computer and video games, and they’re using our campground as a kind of ‘staycation.’ ”
Karen Sweet, 56, of White Oak, goes camping there several times a year with her family. She said she has also seen a rise in the number of campers.
“When I was little, we had tents. Now, for these younger kids, they all have big campers. You get the pool and the high-class living – they’re like resorts in themselves,” she said. “It’s so easy. You can go to a campground that’s only 15 minutes away. People want to get away, into the woods and back into nature.”