b'KEY PEOPLE BY JEFF CRIDERCONYs Bennett Focuses on COVID While Operating BrochureDistribution Service and a Family-Owned CampgroundDon Bennett, Jr. and wife, Lisa Like every state campground associ- said, campgrounds were considered Ohio, where he also played offensiveation director, Don Bennett Jr.has been essential businesses. In others, we were tackle on Ashlands Division II footballas busy as hes ever been these past few not. team.months. New York, Bennett added, is like a He subsequently worked for a smallAthird-generationcampground microcosm of the whole country. accounting firm for 15 years, handlingowner and operator of Conesus Lake Onlyinsteadof50differentap- everything from audits to tax returns.Campgroundin the Finger Lakes region proaches by 50 states, New York had 62 Bennett continues to run a private ac-of Upstate New York, Bennett is presi- differentapproachesby62counties, counting practice as a small side business.dentandCEOoftheCampground which were further grouped into 11 re- Bennett became treasurer of CONYOwners of New York (CONY), the state gions that each have their own state- in 2003 and was later promoted to pres-that led the nation in COVID-19 cases mandated COVID-19 restrictions. ident and CEO in 2006 following the re-and deaths when the pandemic started When Woodalls Campground Man- tirement of Bob Klos, who had served aslast spring. agement (WCM) caught up with Ben- CONYs top administrator since 1975.Bennettsjobwasfurthercompli- nett,parksinthestatewerejust Bennett, in fact, is only the second pres-cated by the wildly different approaches beginning to reopen. Now most parks ident and CEO in CONYs 57-year his-New Yorks 62 counties took during the are able to operate and New York has a tory.pandemic. 14-day mandatory quarantine require- CONY began in 1963, Bennett said.In some regions of the state, he ment for people traveling from 31 states. From what my grandmother tells me, itThepastfewmonthshavebeen was started by 12 campground ownersvery challenging with all of the uncer- who were in attendance at the Cornelltainty in the business world and in the University Campground Managementcampground world. Our members are School. Sadly, this does not exist anyalways wanting answers, Bennett ex- longer. CONY did not have the resourcesplained. They want us to snap our fin- for an executive director until 1975. Klosgers (and take care of things). Ive been was the first paid staff for the organiza-frustrated at not being more successful tion at that time.at times. Bennett takes pride in the work heBut while Bennett has had his hands has done for the association, which rep-fulladvocatingforparksaroundthe resents 190 campgrounds, RV parks andstate, he has also been busy overseeing resorts.hisownfamilypark,ConesusLakeCampground, which borders the west-ernmost lake in the Finger Lakes Regionof Upstate New York, about 30 milessouth of Rochester.Bennetts grandparents, EdwardandMildred Yaniszewski, built the camp-ground in the late 1960s after taking anRV trip across the country.They enjoyed the lifestyle so much,Bennett said. They talked to camp-groundownersalongthewayandthought it would be a good business toget into.Edward was a master carpenter and Don Bennett, Jr. with N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomowas able to build the campground withhis family helping out, and opened the I think one of the things weve beenpark in 1962. Like most first-time camp- able to achieve is much better commu-groundoperators,theYaniszewskis nication for our members, he said. Westarted small but added more campsites have several computer systems now inand amenities over time. place to aid in timely communications.My parents tell me I spent my first Wehaveprintedandelectronicnight at the campground when I was newsletters.Peoplecanregisterforabouttwoweeksold,Bennettsaid, thingsonlineandpayduesonline.adding that his grandfather taught him Weve got a great lobbyist in Greenberghow to do construction work, a skill he Traurig who is keeping us at the fore-put to good use in his teen years as he front with the governors executive or-helped his grandparents expand their ders. We have COVID-19 informationcampground. on our membership website.I put in electrical lines, water lines, CONYscampgrounddirectoryhassewer lines. My grandfather knew how also improved. When I started, it was onto do everything, Bennett said. newsprint, Bennett said. Now we haveHis grandparents also saw the need a perfect-bound four-color directory.for an organization to protect the busi- CONY also rebranded itself for con-ness interests of private campground sumers and created the Camp Newoperators. They were founding mem- York name and designed a new logo,bers of CONY, which was established in spelledoutinretro-typelettering,1963.Infact,Bennettsgrandmother which has more consumer appeal thanwas treasurer of CONY for at least the CampgroundOwnersofNewYork,first decade and is a member of the which is obviously targeted at camp-CONY Hall of Fame. ground owners.Bennetts mother, Gale, and uncle, CONY has also been working to im-Robert Yaniszewski, were also active at provetheeducationalcontentofitsthe campground for many years until conferences. We have brought in somethey retired. Bennett Jr. earned a Bach- terrific speakers, Bennett said, citingelor of Science degree in accounting Kizer and Benderfor retail and market-and finance with a minor in economics ing and Ron Rosenberg, an award-win-fromAshlandUniversityinAshland, ningprofessionalspeakerandsmall24 -September 2020 Woodalls Campground Management'